Zagorakis Turns PAOK Saviour
In a somewhat unconventional career move, just four days after his last ever match as a player on 14 June for PAOK, the club with which he first made his name, Theodoros Zagorakis (35) – Greece’s most capped international of all-time with 119 appearances and the captain of the nation’s EURO 2004-. winning team – was appointed the president of the club, whose sporting achievements have recently been overshadowed by soaring debts and hooliganism. “It has been almost like civil war here of late because the fans want to see good football instead of scandals,” said PAOK spokesman Kyriakos Kyriakos. The Thessaloniki club’s problems were so bad that it was banned from last season’s UEFA Cup. After cutting his teeth in the game with PAOK, Zagorakis played for Leicester City, AEK Athens and Bologna before returning to his roots to save his old club from ruin. And he has already managed to assemble the various warring camps around a table for discussions. “We have drastically reduced our players’ salaries and are building a team that the fans will love,” promises Zagorakis. “Within two years, we plan to have cleared our debts, too.” Under Zagorakis’s conciliatory leadership, the club’s average attendance for home games has already risen from 5,000 to 15,000. Furthermore, the Greek government has offered a helping hand to all domestic professional clubs in financial difficulties by passing a law that writes off 80 per cent of all interest accrued on the outstanding debts of the teams in the league. Zagorakis therefore seems to have emerged smelling of roses once again – not as Otto Rehhagel’s EURO-winning captain this time, but as the saviour of a club founded in 1926 to commemorate the loss of former territories in Asia Minor and which has a two-headed eagle with outstretched wings as its emblem.