There are many things to take into consideration when speaking about Greek football. The passion for the game, the talent, the lack of proper playing grounds, the Euro 2004 success and its legacy, the situation with organised fan clubs, and other matters.

So, in order to be able to objectively define the position of the Greek league and how it compares with others in Europe, it would be necessary to talk about some, if not all, of these factors and see how they fare against their counterparts.

How realistic is it to say that the Greek Super League is among the top seven within the entire continent?

When it comes to pure competitiveness alone, only in the past two seasons have other teams managed to claim the title and question the continued dominance of Olympiacos. The giants from Piraeus have 44 national championships, more than any other Greek team on its own but also all of them combined (38).

AEK managed to stop their most recent, seven-year title run by winning the league in 2018, while PAOK are set to become champions for the first time in 34 years, stopping Olympiacos from winning the league for a second consecutive season, an event that hasn’t been observed since 1996.

Even though there are other clubs in Europe (FC Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, to name a few) that also have a majority of titles within their respective leagues, one would have to search far to find a club that surpasses the collection that the “red-and-whites” have amassed over the years. So as far as competition goes, it is plainly obvious that the league in Greece is on a very low level.

Yet Greek clubs don’t do any better when facing up against their European counterparts, as even the giants that are Olympiacos have been on a downward spiral in the past few seasons.

READ MORE: The other opinion – Why Greek football is underrated

Teams that never used to seem as much of an obstacle in the path of a Greek team just a few seasons ago, now appear as a major challenge.

And we’re not talking about teams from Italy, Spain, or even Portugal or Russia. These are clubs from Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Switzerland and even Cyprus.

Who could forget the embarrassment both Panathinaikos and PAOK suffered from Azerbaijani club Qabala? Or Olympiacos’ devastation at the hands of APOEL?

Or the fact that AEK ‘managed’ to enter an elite group of teams to finish their Champions League campaign without a single point in their tally? And those are only but a few of the negative records that Greek clubs have accomplished within the past few years.

Someone might argue that there have also been great successes, like Olympiacos defeating seven-times European champions AC Milan or AEK sending Scottish giants Celtic to the Europa League and while those are important wins, the hard fact remains that they are sorely outnumbered by the losses these clubs have counted over the years.

Let’s look at it chronologically: back in season 2003/04, the league was ranked highly enough to allow the two top clubs in Greece to qualify automatically into the Champions League group stage, while the team that finished third in the league participated within the third qualifying round with a high chance of advancing.

This could be considered the “golden era” of Greek football, as it coincided with the national team’s success at the Euro 2004 in Portugal.

However, it was short-lived as internal conflicts and continuous power struggles within the league and the federation didn’t allow the teams to further capitalise on this success that was brought forth thanks to the efforts of many of the smaller teams besides Olympiacos and Panathinaikos (who came a hair’s breath away from the Champions League final in 1996 and the semi final in 2002), including Panionios, Aris and AEL.

Many clubs made risky moves on the transfer market, which didn’t bring back the revenue they had hoped for and, combined with the financial crisis that affected not just football, but the whole Greek market, left many clubs struggling just to survive.

The result of this was that they could no longer afford to stay competitive on the higher level and the rest of Europe began to not only catch up, but surpass them as well.

And this wasn’t the only consequence of the crisis, since the ongoing situation with the organised fans causing trouble and mayhem within the stadiums deteriorated. Certain clubs held onto these troublesome elements in order to keep some form of revenue coming in.

The toxicity and violence only keeps getting worse every season, as if fans and officials are trying to outdo themselves. Guns, flares, racism, homophobia, bleeding referees, threatening announcements, sexist chants are all just considered another day at work for those involved with the sport in Greece.

It reached the point that fans of away teams were not allowed to travel to the opposing team’s ground. Such is the animosity between fans that the police are certain they will not be able to stop the ensuing chaos.

This toxicity eventually made its way into the greatest thing that ever happened to the football in Greece: the national team.

Rather than keeping it as a neutral ground, an environment that would connect all fans of the sport (and even those who didn’t necessarily follow it, like in 2004, 2008 and the World Cup of 2014), club team interests seeped in, with players beginning to argue amongst themselves (it is rumoured that Tzavellas, formerly of PAOK, and Maniatis who belonged to Olympiacos, were not on speaking terms during the World Cup in Brazil) and the once hailed as toughest defence in all of Europe came to the embarrassing point of losing twice against the Faroe Islands.

Since then, not a whole lot has changed, but things do appear to have taken a slight turn for the better. Clubs like AEK, PAOK and Panathinaikos are looking financially healthier, having learned from the mistakes from the past and without taking unnecessary risks.

Other teams such as Atromitos, Asteras Tripolis and Panionios are coming out of the woodwork and raising the level of competitiveness within the league.

A few stadiums, such as AEK’s “Hagia Sophia” and Larissa’s “AEL FC Arena” are being developed, while others are in the middle of planning, such as the restructuring of Toumba or the “Athens Alive” project on Panathinaikos’ part.

A lot of younger players are seeking their luck in better paying European competitions, which means that they can potentially help build a much stronger national side in the years to come.

The situation with the fans is yet to be dealt with and requires a united front by all stakeholders if there is to be a solution to this issue that is costing them in the hundreds of thousands, especially to those that play in European competitions, due to all the penalties enforced onto them by UEFA.

In conclusion, football in Greece is a work in progress. It most certainly does not have a place among the greats when it cannot even provide the necessary requirements for young players to thrive and evolve into who they can be before making the jump to a higher level.

The aspiration right now should be for the sport to be able to eventually climb out of the slump it has fallen into due to all the issues listed above and one day be able to reach the point it was at not too long ago.

To be able to look at the competition in the eye, no matter who they are or where they’re from. But there’s still a whole lot of work to be done, we need to be truthful about this.