O L Y M P I A C O S   1 9 2 5
O L Y M P I A C O S   1 9 2 5
Evangelos Marinakis: “Everybody stands by Olympiacos, in a calm and supportive way”

Evangelos Marinakis: “Everybody stands by Olympiacos, in a calm and supportive way”

Olympiacos FC president Evangelos Marinakis hosted the official presentation of the club's new Sporting Director and Head Coach.

Olympiacos FC leader Evangelos Marinakis hosted, Tuesday noon (27/6), the official presentation of the club’s new Sporting Director, Antonio Cordon, and new Head Coach Diego Martinez, at the FC’s HQs.

Initially, he said:

“I wish you all a great football season. We decided to leave behind us the season that just finished. My personal opinion is it wasn’t as bad as some people describe it, if we have a meaningful discussion about it. This is why we brought in Olympiacos the best sporting director ever to set foot in Greece judging by his resume. He has been successful with top clubs, in the likes of Betis, Villareal, domestic champion Monaco against none other than Paris Saint-Germain; apart from the title itself, he has been instrumental to players who stood out in those clubs and then did great in even larger ones. We brough a Primera Division-class coach, Diego Martinez. He is a young and talented coach who is thirsty for success. I gave Antonio my trust for his selection, he has worked with him and once I saw and had a conversation with him, I found out he was fully aware of the club he was to join and the things we want. We want a side that always plays in an offensive-minded way and puts on pressure? we want a team to win in style and we want to enjoy watching our layers’ display on the pitch. These things are far from easy, it takes a lot of work and time spent on the pitch and the training center; and we are certain these two gentlemen and their staff have worked hard in the past. We are optimist that we will achieve our goals this year. What is for certain is that they both have the desire and they work hard to deliver. We have decided to host a Press Conference with you all attending, so that we talk about Greek football’s future. This is not the right time but we are here to give answers to specific inquiries. ”

You are an Olympiacos fan, a top businessman, you own one of the UK’s most historic clubs and you are the owner of Greece’s largest club, Olympiacos. You ante up lots of money every year but we see that, even when Olympiacos is at the top, there are people who play games behind your back and that of Olympiacos and its fans. A question shared by all is why you put up with all of them.

“The beauty of democracy is when one puts up with all these and talks about them. Within a society, we have people who offer? we also have those who do not offer, but steal and kill. So, we have all these people and we try to find a civil way to come to terms with. Certainly, Greek football has many weak points and, personally, I would like it to be at a much higher level. From the day I took on Olympiacos, back in 2010, I tried with all my financial powers and dedicated lots of daily time -and this costs more-for the club. Firstly, I tried to make the club stronger, build and improve all necessary infrastructures, and pick the right associates for the club, be it coaches, executives or footballers. Our aim was to drive Olympiacos to a higher level. Except from being a top club and Greece’s largest one, to conquer pan-European acclaim at all levels. I think this strive paid off, we found ourselves at the highest point ever to have been reached in Europe, we earned some great wins who will never be forgotten. We saw coaches who worked in Olympiacos and then moved to build amazing careers in really top European clubs. We also watched players setting out with us and then signing in prestigious European clubs. And one more thing never to have happened in the past: we saw executives who have worked in Olympiacos now excelling in major European clubs. This is something we’ve never witnessed before and I’m particularly proud of. With our starting point in Greece, we may play a leading part abroad as well. I believe this is the best answer to your question.

Now, as to what has happened lately in Greek football, I think there is rot in it and this is something the whole world may see, it’s not just me. Even the Greek Prime Minister asked, a few years ago, one binding directive by UEFA President Ceferin. And this was EPO’s holistic study. So, this remains to be enforced to improve the federation’s operations and see much better things taking place in Greek football. This was a mandatory directive, a memorandum -should you prefer this term- between FIFA – UEFA and the Greek Government, that was named “holistic study”. Very belatedly, EPO adjusted the study to its dimensions, but, in essence, they never implemented to date. EPO features some committees but lacks a set of regulations as provided by the study, to determine how a committee is convened and what this committee should so, as it is the case in all serious organizations. Said holistic study provides that foreign Chief Referees shall be involved, whereas in Greece it is in fact a role played by Mr. Mantalos. This holistic study also provides for the establishment of a committee on professional Football. What does this mean? It means that we, Professional football stakeholders, are to decide our own. This has not been enforced because it is EPO holding majority in the Committee on Professional Football. So, we fool both ourselves and all the people. As per professional refereeing, this is a state law and it should be enforced. With UEFA’s consent, this has been very saucerful put in place in the UK; equally, in Portugal. Once more, this is not the case in Greece for many obvious reasons. The new government should take specific initiatives if they want to move forward. My role is not to complain on EPO’s wrongdoings or refereeing. We are a big club? we are winners and the only think I may admit for this season -and that’s the truth- is that in 2022-2023 the fees for our players and coaching staff have been the highest ever in our club’s history. In 2022-2023, we paid EUR 40m in expenses for player and staff payroll, in 2021-2022 we have paid 34m. in terms of our ranking, 2022-2023 has been one of our worst years. Although we had the most expensive outfit, we failed to build a team to also beat referees in Greece and those working in the shadows. Facts speak louder than words. If refereeing had been on a 50-50 basis throughout the season, we would have been crowned champions. We have prepared a video -it is at your disposal – showing all crimes committed against us and those in favor of other teams. This is the reality. The job of our coach and mr. Cordon will be much tougher because we will have to build a team also beating referees. Also, the players who are to join us, they should be able to ever stand out in ever tougher championships around Europe. This is the target. It is difficult, but know that we will go for it. Almost every time, we win in the end. This is something that anyone may feel just by setting foot into our home ground, entering in Karaiskakis, into our training center or even the FC’s offices, where the aua of a winner may be felt everywhere and we are proud of that”.

We were informed that you contributed to the club’s share capital increase of EUR 15m. you spoke to us about previous years’ financial figures. This is a club with a value 2-3 times higher than that of all others. Superleague informed us that, following a decision by the Presidency, all money that was to be given to big clubs, will go to the small ones. This reflects an anomaly in Greek football. Is there a future in this? Is it ok for a President to give millions of euros to one’s team, also support smaller clubs and find EUR 8-9m from sponsors each year, as it was the case with Stoiximan in the Superleague. How are these things to be fixed?

“I believe that in Greece we have great talents in football who, if the right infrastructure is in place, may excel also in Europe. This means that the Greek football has a future and this was why I took on the League’s presidency. We achieved that we could attract various investors, or sponsors in fact, after exploring them that we can do a good job and having the right governance for the Super League and the EPO as well, in order to do things. I think that the whole thing with EPO should stop; they should be involved only with non-professional football. Professional football knows how to find its own path to follow. Within the Super League, we can come to terms. The entire EPO disgrace has only to do with refereeing, since there we need EPO for nothing else but that. And, behind the scenes, by means of their committees, they exploit the lichenizing issue by granting licenses only to friends and not to foes. There are clubs being licenced that should never be eligible to play in any division of Greek football. These are wrongdoings that have to stop. To save time, I think that professional football, as specified in the holistic study, must decide for its own fate. I think it is to the benefit of all club owners involved with professional football, regardless of what some may do in their daily lives, to drive this sport forward.

And I do believe that soon, with the new Government, this will be put in place and help us take a couple of steps forward. In 2022-2023, Olympiacos lost EUR 31m., in 2021-2022 it was EUR 14m of losses. This is something that can’t go on, for sure. A team must be able to stand out on their merits. This means that clubs have to sell some players and earn higher revenues. Just like sponsors who get their proper return. Football has to step up. We are here to do so. We are the ones to decide about our own fate. I am optimistic that these will get under way in the next couple of months.

There is also something else. We hear words about the things we have done in the past 13 years. It’s not just about football and non-professional sports. Michalis Kountouris is also here. Do you what happened in the last 12-13 years in all sports, like volleyball, water polo, swimming, women basketball. There are so many disciplines. The history of the club has changed. Since we took on, we have won 122 titles, which equals the number of titles won until we took charge of things. We have also had achievements abroad, at champions league-level, in volleyball, water polo and others. But this did not happen by chance.

We have had the right people who spent and keep spending lots of their time and work really hard. Second, the money we give every year to attain these goals. We are talking about many of millions in these 13 years. We have many non-professional sporting departments in Olympiacos, the smallest of which has a budget of EUR 80,000-100,000 and the largest of EUR 1 million or more; from ping-pong to volleyball and water polo. What strikes me as odd is that almost half the population of Greece support Olympiacos and among them, many are well-off and could afford supporting a department with a budget of EUR 100,000 or 200,000 or 500,000. So many departments and I saw no one doing the slightest move and this is not good for me. They also say things about the FC all these years. If one wants to invest, be our guest. We won’t say no and our door is open. Back to the non-professional departments. You know what would have happened if it wasn’t for me? Do you know what their condition was when we took on? Debt-ridden and everyone asking for their money, from the cafeteria shop down to the last player. All these things have changed but we should now forget history. More people have to join and take on some departments, so they go even higher and not expect 2-3 guys to do everything. Our history, however, has been changed and now it is being written in golden letters. And there are many letters to write and many title to win. Let me repeat myself. If one wants to join, be my guest. Both in professional football and other departments alike. They are welcome to invest in the club they love and watch their favorite team go even higher. ”

You described Mr. Cordon as one of the most experienced sporting directors ever to join. Mr. Martinez is young and ambitious. You have also proven that you may raise the bar high when it comes to transfers. What will be the identity of Olympiacos new transfer strategy?

Mr. Cordon is a well acknowledged professional? his background shows that, it’s not just me telling. Based on his resume, he is the best and most expensive ever to come to our country. As for our coach, he is a person who left some great legacy in all clubs we worked before and he aspires to do many more things. I just want to take one step back. We have signed many transfers and won many titles, but this is the job of the people we bring into the club. They are the best to make these choices. Our choice is to sign players between 20-25 years who have a strong future and will be coupled with 2-3 experienced those who have won titles in the past or will stand out in claiming titles because they have the experience and skills to build a team that will stand out as a result of the talents and required experienced brought together. Let us not forget that this has been a particular year for everyone in Europe, because we had the World Cup in December. This means that all championships were delayed and we had cup finals until the previous week. So, it was reasonable for all discussions to kick off after the end of the championship”.

Soon, we will have Olympiacos 100th anniversary. Have you started the prep work for this historic moment?

“Yes, we have and I think that my associates will put together many events and documentaries for our golden 100th anniversary. We have been quite original as you have already seen in our events. We have made history in Karaiskakis. So, expect some amazing things from us worthy of our club’s illustrious 100-year long history. Both in football and other sports. ”

You have suffered ruthless attacks -and to the point of being shameful-  as President of Olympiacos by certain undertakings, media outlets and part of the EPO during all these years. As a human being, a president, a businessman, has there ever been a moment when you had second thoughts about what you want to build in Olympiacos?

“It is my composure to allow for exploding and thus put an end to all grievance and disillusionment. Once this is over, one has his resilience and power to go on. We have seen it all in this country. People bullding a career on threats, lies and thin air. State-financed people. We all contribute to the state every year, while these people milk the state to be able to do other things. I am proud because no government has ever helped me and I was transparent in all things I have done, whether it is called the New York Stock Exchange or big deals that hit the news. There are large organizations that check all the details of how well all these deals are done. I want to tell you that in our country we have to realize that everyone has to mind their own business and work hard. Criticism is a constructive thing as long as it doesn’t get out of hand and is done well. This year we have heard from some people with no relation to the club whatsoever. When it comes to organizing the club… Olympiacos is better organized than any other team and it stands 10-20 years ahead of all others. We have proved that. Before you talked about kids from the academy. Let me name four players who begun from the Olympiacos academies and were sold to major European teams with a total of 50 million euros. Tsimikas, Nikolaou, Fetfatzidis, Retsos… Things that have never happened in Greece before. If only we could see other teams doing that, I’d be happy. But I’ve learned to mind my own business and protect my partners, which is important. I can tolerate malicious criticism, lies or monstrous allegations. But it’s not the same for your co-workers, your family, who may be bothered and fail to put up with that. For me this is even more important, to protect these people and keep them committed to their goal. We mind our own business, our team, and if we can, the society around us. Olympiacos is not only a football team that plays a leading role. We want to do things for society and Piraeus. We’ve proven it. Throughout the country we have offered and here is the mayor of Piraeus, Mr. Moralis. One walks around Piraeus, and it is currently a different city. The city is so close to Olympiacos. We have learned to offer to the whole society because we can do it and our country needs it. We need to help the society around us to be competitive. We’re used to it, we’ve heard things, and they shouldn’t mess with your mind. Sometimes the best thing to do, for both my associates and players, is not to read these things. There is social media anarchy and people in need of some therapy just write things. At first, it pisses you off, but then you say this person needs support. It’s not about getting mad at them; it’s about helping them think straight. Young people need to be aware of this, too, because it’s ruining their minds. I’m more concerned with how those around me feel than I am, because I’m used to it and I can stand it”.

Are there any plans for Karaiskakis? There’s a lot of talk about expansion. Also, when it comes to the association’s swimming pool, is there any progress? Generally speaking, are there any plans for the entire Olympiacos organization you can talk to us about.

“In Karaiskakis, we will watch, August 16th, the Super Cup between Manchester City and Sevilla; this is a great competition. You will see what we build in Karaiskaki and this comes out of our own pocket. Neither Regional authorities, nor the Greek government have so far given a single euro to Karaiskakis or Rentis. You will see that work has already begun on Karaiskakis, which will end by August 16th and then we shall continue for we have more plans. Regarding the swimming pool, that is something we are waiting for. There is a plot available and I have said that since the Region and the Ministry of Sports give no money, then ourselves we will build the swimming pool. It will be a donation for the entire city of Piraeus and for the team, for the athletes and for all Piraeus teams, who will be able to use it at other times. Given the titles our non-professional teams have won, they should have had their own facilities. Efforts are being made and we will continue this way. Mr. Moralis and Mr. Kountouris have tried hard. At the end of the day, once its location is finalised, we have offered to build this project as soon as possible.

In closing, I would like to say that what the team needs is be calm and stay focused. People should be next to this team because changes will changes take place in the roster. A period of adjustment is needed. We all need to be close to the team and support them. As Christian said, all this is nice to talk about but it is not easy, it needs the support of us all. Rest assured that we strive for the best and our associates are willing to do so. It takes time and support for all of this to happen. A new player, who gains experience in our country, should be supported in the beginning, because there are good and bad days. But at least when there is this support and love from everyone on this project, it may only lead to success.”

Then a question was asked to the strategic advisor of Olympiacos FC, Christian Karembeu.

You have won everything in your career and your dream is to win a European title with Olympiacos. With Mr. Marinakis as President, Mr. Cordon as Sporting Director and Mr. Martinez as Coach, do you think this moment is near?

“I believe very much in what we are doing here today. I believe very much in the goals we have set and the way we try to approach them. For those who do not know Mr. Cordon well, you should know that he has worked in the past with Mr. Valverde and Mr. Zardim, two former coaches of Olympiacos. He knows how to give us many gifts, but we must know how to accept these gifts. He can help the team a lot and take it to the next level. We have to be here to do what he tells us. He repeated the word humbleness many times. So, by being humble, we want to create a team that will be united. It is not easy to build a team from scratch, but we are here to do it under his instructions and advice. I’m here to help in any way.”

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