I try to look at things rationally most of the time. I like to take things for what they are and not take from them something that simply isn’t there since doing so usually just leads to disappointment. Tonight though, I have to make an exception.
I’ll have to start off by saying that I didn’t get the chance to watch the match live since I had things booked from a while back that I couldn’t change at all. At first I wasn’t as upset as I normally would have been about missing the game; afterall, with how long the whole fiasco had been dragged out I was more just hoping it would all be over. Knowing we wouldn’t have any fans in the stands also didn’t help and on top of that, I figured one way or another, someone or something, would have made sure we didn’t get the chance to win.
I knew we already beat Olympiakos once this season, but part of me figured certain influential factors would be at play to make sure Olympiakos getting the double would just be a formality. As we saw when they played Tripolis last year, things seem to happen to make sure games like these go their way.
I guess I didn’t realise that it was possible to have a Cup final in Greece where refereeing didn’t interfere with the game at all. I guess I also didn’t realise that we do in fact have a better team than them. Obviously the rational side of me would still be saying that no, Olympiakos still has a stronger team than us. But tonight, I can’t help but look back at what we did and feel that we are absolutely the stronger team. Twice this season we took them on, shut them out of the game, and took our chances to come away with the win. Maybe we didn’t get the humiliating wins we all would have liked, but we got the job done and that in itself is an accomplishment considering the different budgets involved between the two sides.
I saw the highlights and I must say that we did really well to finish the chances we had. Both of our goals were solid plays, not goals scored through flukes or good luck, which is always nice to see. They might complain that we beat them off a penalty last game, but they can’t say a thing about the goals we scored today, even if certain players and staff might have the nerve to do just that.
More importantly than how we played though, is what this game meant for the team, the supporters (including all of us), and Greece in general. Firstly, I can’t imagine a better way of ending our first season back. Sure, the championship would have been nice but that was obviously never an option. To win the Cup though, with players who were not too long ago playing with AEK in the third and second divisions of Greece, is an incredible accomplishment. And not only is it an accomplishment for the team, but it shows that AEK is finally back. Work still needs to be done, we’re nowhere near the level we can be, but the team we all know and love is finally back.
The win also means so much for us supporters of the teams, those of who love the team through the good times and the bad times, through all the wins and all the losses. Supporting AEK isn’t always easy, especially not in a country where everything seems stacked against you but we have no choice since this team means so much to us. We’ve supported this team through all the times we all hoped we would never see and so I have to say that, though this Cup is for the players, I feel like its also ours in a way. We don’t support this team looking for recognition since the support we give is unconditional, or at least I like to think that it is. Still, its nice to see some reward for all that we give whether its going to stadium every week, travelling to away games, waking up at ridiculous hours to watch the games in places like Australia, or just simply being a supporter even when first division football is still two years away.
For those of who had to follow the game away from Greece like I did, the videos in the links below are well worth a watch. They give just a tiny sample of what the atmosphere was like at Nea Filadelfeia tonight as the team bus carried the players through a sea of supporters. I remember being there after we won in 2011 and I would have given anything to have been there again tonight.
Greek Cup winners for the 15th time in our history. Take a moment if you can to let that sink in. It seems like just yesterday we were playing in the third division, slowly making our way back to where we belong. Now, after three years, we are finally back with the biggest statement we could have hoped for. Hopefully we’ll have plenty more Cups to celebrate in the years to come. Maybe even a championship or two.