Interview with Vassilis Hadzipanagis

Dear friends!

The popularity of the international tournament organized by IAFA is growing rapidly among the Greek football fans. Vassilis Hadzipanagis, the best football player of Greek football for the last 50 years will attend the opening ceremony of IAFA Super Cup 2013. Vassilis was born in USSR, played for "Pahktakor" Tashkent and USSR Olympic team.

Василис ХадзипанагисIn fact Vassilis Hadzipanagis was the first Soviet footballer who began to play as a professional in Europe. He scored 18 goals in 77 games in Soviet premier league. He moved to his historical motherland Greece in 1975 as 21 year youngster and became the best Greek football player of the half of century.

- Mr. Hadzipanagis spoke to IAFA representative in Greece Mr. Theodoros Magdalinidis. We have to admit that Vassilis still remembers Russian language.

- Do you often use your Russian language skills living in Greece?

- It is a problem in Thesalloniki. Mostly I communicate with the people from former Soviet Union and will answer to your questions in Russian as well.

- How do you like the idea of organizing the international amateur football tournaments here in Greece?

- It is a very good idea. Especially if you know that football is top favourite kind of sport in Greece. Last time we lost the final game. Do hope that the cup will be ours this year.

- Does it means that your team will be participating in this year's tournament for sure?

- Of course, I would to like to mention that this is a real sporting event and not a boozing-party of so-called football fans.

- Thank you, Vassilis, we will do our best this year as well. Please tell me something about your team.

- Let it stay as a surprise.

- Then let's move back to Soviet Union. Do you remember your nick-name in "Pahtakor"?

- Greeks called me Lakis, Uzbeks Hodja which means respected man. Honestly, still remember the fantastic years I spent in Tashkent.

- Do you remember your first game played in Soviet championship?

- Yes, of course. It was a game against "Shahktor" Donetsk and I scored my first goal. Also remember how we beat "Zarya" (Soviet champions of 1972).

Василис Хадзипанагис- What about the legendary win over "Dinamo" Kiev in 1975?

- That was the most sensational result of the season. We crushed them by 5-0. Just few weeks earlier they have beat "Bayern" Munich and won the Super Cup. "Pahtakor" was the only side in the league that season who managed to beat "Dinamo" twice, home and away.

- Did you serve in Soviet army?

- No. I decided to move to Greece despite of regular calls from Moscow teams "Spartak", "Dinamo" and "Torpedo". You do not believe but I regret that left Soviet Union. When I leaving 30 years ago I did not know the real level of football in Greece. I was called to represent USSR Olympic team and we successfully qualified for 1976 Olympics in Montreal. I was in the squad against Yugoslavia and scored a goal, we won Iceland twice, 2-0 and 1-0 and finally crushed Norway 4-0.

- And you got a new flat and a car…

- Yes, it was like a kind of gentlemen's set. But in the 70s in Greece there were hard times for the football players. Players receive a very small salary. You could only earn when signing the contract. But there was a catch. Having signed a contract with the club, player immediately connected himself with the club for many years because the club has all the rights to the player for 10 years. Unfortunately I also got into this trap.

- Why "Iraklis" did not sell you to one of Western European football clubs? There was not a single offer???

- There was offers were from "Stuttgart" and "AC Roma". Even Americans in 1976 offered me a million dollar contract. I have also spent two months in England. First recovering from a meniscus injury. After that had few trainings with "Arsenal". "Gunners" did not want to let me go from London! But the owners of "Iraklis" did not want even to hear about my sale. I was a key players and that's it!

- Unfortunately "Iraklis" never won Greek title with you.

- It was impossible mission for our team. We finished twice in the row on the third place, 1983 and 1984 but in fact we could not really compete with the Greek football giants "Panathinaikos", «Olympiacos" and AEK.

Василис Хадзипанагис- Was it true that FIFA had banned you from playing for the national team?

- Yes, I was playing in an official match for the national team of USSR. I went to two tournaments with the team USSR. Few months later I was in the national team of Greece for a friendly game against Poland. There was a small scandal. As a result FIFA banned me from playing for the national team of Greece.

- But nevertheless at the end you were in Greece line-up at the age of 45...

- Greek Football Federation decided to organize a friendly game especially for me. They wanted me to once again to put on a Greece jersey. Initially they planned that the opponent will be Russian national team but at the end we played versus Ghana. I was spent 25 minutes on the field and the game ended up with result 1-1.

- You finished your carrier in 1990, aged of 36 but you never leave "Iraklis". Are not you angry to the team management?

- Not at all! Everyone in Greece knows me and loves me. Now I am working at "Iraklis" football academy and I am quite happy. The club organized for me the farewell game between "Iraklis" and all stars team of Greece championship. Former "Olympiacos" players such as Oleg protasov, Genadiy Litovchenko and Yuriy Savichev were in that squad.

- Is there anybody else from former Soviet Union you still get in touch? For example Estafiy Pehlevanidi from "Kairat" Almaty?

- Unfortunately no. I know that he lives in Athens and trainees the amateur squad. I met Omari Tetradze a couple of times when he played for PAOK.

- You should remember the air-crush with "Pahtakor"team in 1979.

- I was shocked! All my team mates and very good friends have passed away. Such a disaster!

- What did you do before you began to work at football academy?

- I was in football all the time. I worked for Greek Football Federation.

- Are you married?

- No!

- You are kindly welcome to the opening ceremony of our tournament.

- Thank you very much!