THOUGH some lesser followed sports such as volleyball, golf, boxing, kick-boxing, sailing, Aussie Rules footy, rowing, cricket, rugby, athletics and gymnastics all made headlines in the NKEE, this year will be remembered thanks to some major successes in football and basketball.
And so another year has come and gone and while life goes on, friends get married, interest rates increase, we can always count on sport for entertainment, heart-ache, celebration and everything in between. Here are some of the highlights of 2009.
Football highlights were rather prominent. Greece and Australia both qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. I praise the heavens above for separating the two sides into different groups because I don’t know how I would have coped with the Aussie media laying into Greece and its supporters!
Greece has an interesting group with some old friends, Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea, while Australia will do it tough against Germany, Ghana and Serbia. Bring on 2010, I say!
A word or two also for Greece’s U/21 side who are sitting pretty on top of Group 9 with 13 points from six games. England, Portugal and Lithuania are chasing while our FYROM neighbours are holding up the table at the bottom. Greece has two games left (England and FYROM away) and should qualify with one more win.
In the Greek League, credit goes to Olympiakos for qualifying into the knockout stage of the Champions League. They will play French side Girondins de Bordeaux who are not to be underestimated. Panathinaikos will meet Roma in the next round of the Europa League. Well done to both for making it this far.
Of course, one of the highlights of the entire decade will be the 2009 Greek Cup Final between Olympiakos and AEK. The match had everything, goals galore, controversy, epic come-backs by both sides and one of the most nerve-wracking penalty shoot-outs of all time!
Domestically, South Melbourne’s 50th Anniversary was the highlight of 2009, though the Greek-based VPL sides South, Oakleigh and Heidelberg will hope for a better 2010. Look out for newly promoted Northcote City and Bentleigh Greens in 2010.
It was another good year for basketball. Panathinaikos captured the 2009 Euroleague title, defeating rivals Olympiakos in the semi-finals of the Final Four in Berlin. The greens also won the Greek A1 League and the Cup. Not a bad haul at all.
Greece secured the all-important qualification to the 2010 World Championships by reaching the top four in the 2009 Eurobasket. Though the side went down to eventual Champions Spain in the semi final, the new look side showed attacking flair and the introduction of some of the stars of the future.
Greece’s U/19 side also paid Melbourne basketball fans a visit, en route to coming in second place at the 2009 U/19 World Championships. The side played a warm-up tournament in Melbourne against Australia, France and Spain and then almost went all the way in the main tournament. Despite losing the close final to the USA, the future of Greek basketball is indeed bright.