Awaking the giant
The Greek Australian football community gathered for the launch of the book The Giant Who Never Awoke - a history of the Pan Hellenic SC 1957-76
Sydney's Greek football community was transported to a bygone era of football this week, as my latest book, The Giant Who Never Awoke: History and Oral Stories of Pan Hellenic SC (1957-76), was launched in front of a large crowd at Hellenic Club Restaurant, Sydney.
Former Pan-Hellenic Committee members, players and supporters stood alongside younger Sydney Olympic supporters - three generations of football involvement and participation - to create a memorable night of reminiscing and recognising how important Pan-Hellenic was for the generation of newly-arrived Greek migrants to Sydney and the growth of multiculturalism.
Speaker after speaker provided a different insight into Pan-Hellenic's colourful history - its highs and lows - creating an overall view of the Club, the team and supporters.
Representing the hosts, the Hellenic Club, was former President, and former Pan-Hellenic Committee Member, Stavros Vlahos, who spoke of the working relationship between the Hellenic Club and Pan-Hellenic SC.
In his speech, Sydney Olympic President, George Giannaros, made the important connection between his father's generation of Pan-Hellenic supporters and today's Sydney Olympic supporters; he also pointed out Pan-Hellenic's need for a strong supporter base was still relevant today, as there was a need to continue supporting Sydney Olympic.
As of one of only two Committee members still alive from Pan-Hellenic's committees (of the late 1950's), Councillor John Procopiades recalled the passion and enthusiasm of players and supporters alike in the humble beginnings of the Club. Former Pan-Hellenic Presidents, George Kefalas and Michael Kondos, may have reinstated the passion and fond memories, they also highlighted the difficulties in maintaining the team within football's changing landscape of the 1970s.
One highlight of the launch was club stalwart, Sotiris Patrinos - who incidentally is on the cover of the publication - getting up and speaking of all the triumphs and defeats during his ten-year service to the team.
The main speaker of the night was South Sydney Rabbitohs Chairman, Nicholas G Pappas, whose late father, George Papanastasiou, was Pan-Hellenic's Secretary and President over ten years. Combining personal anecdotes with an analysis of the publication, Pappas created a clear picture of what Pan-Hellenic truly meant to its supporters. In one instance, Pappas recalled Pan-Hellenic paying tribute to Panathinaikos' European Cup Final appearance in 1971 by wearing Panathinaikos jerseys for one match.
In the eyes of Pan-Hellenic supporters, the Club represented everything they left behind in Greece: "The reception the team received that day in 1971 was something to behold and confirms for me now, in a symbolic way, what P-H was all about. P-H was Panathinaikos, it was Olympiakos, it was AEK, it was even the Greek national team. It was all these - and more - for its loyal supporters.
"How could emotions ever be held in check when the team carried such a burden?" stated the main speaker, Nicholas Pappas.
In his speech, the author, Vasilis Vasilas, hoped The Giant Who Never Awoke would inspire others to document the history of other football clubs, as it would only enrich the overall history of Australian football, "Yes, we now follow our beloved sport at a time of professional leagues, lucrative contracts, marquee players, pay- TV matches and even live sports betting, but let us not forget the different stages in the overall development of our game. Each stage has played a significant role in building the foundations of the game we enjoy today. And Pan-Hellenic was part of one of those stages. "
The launch of The Giant Who Never Awoke could not have eventuated without the support of Sydney Olympic FC and the Hellenic Club/Hellenic Club Restaurant.
Anyone interested in purchasing a copy of The Giant Who Never Awoke, can contact Vasilis Vasilas on 0422 891 190.
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