We are the champions

On Sunday night (22/05), Apollon Limassol was crowned Cyprus’s 2021-2022 champion.

Apollon completed the football season with 58 points after 16 victories, 10 draws, and 6 defeats. We had the greatest offensive in the Championship, scoring 50 goals while conceding 33.

It is undoubtedly the most challenging, competitive, and ambiguous championship of all time, particularly in the playoffs, where true fighting took place and every point counts. To win every point, you’d have to sweat a lot.

Until the final games of the championship, which claimed three teams until the 28th round when they were separated by only five points, all teams had a goal.

Due to Covid-19 limitations, most teams in the league had a special season, and Apollon won the title after 16 years. Our team’s duty was made much more difficult since our attempt to travel overseas to prepare was prevented twice due to the pandemic, as members of our football squad were diagnosed positive for coronavirus and the procedure required quarantine in contacts for many days.

Furthermore, the absence of a championship since 2006, when we last celebrated the title, and the outcomes of prior years that we approached without success, brought further stress and strain to our squad, with management making significant changes this summer 2021.

Many long-serving footballers and technical staff members went to make a fresh start in order for Apollon to attain the coveted objective.

As the first ingredient in the championship recipe was German coaching, Chairman Nikos Kirzis hired Mr. Alexander Zorniger. Mr. Kirzis underlined at the new coach’s introduction that “there was an overrun on the coaching staff,” demonstrating the management’s way of thinking in light of the new year.

The goal from the start was to form a battling squad, but it was made clear that this is a transitional stage in which we would compete for a European ticket, with the long-term goal of forming a new body in the coming years.

The team’s early elimination from Zilina in July 2021 raised fears that it might not even make it into the top six!

After the European elimination, much was written and said, but inside the team, the hard work and determination to form a powerful ensemble persisted, which in the end brought what everyone felt they were striving for.

The championship got off to a great start. The squad and fans around the club was inspired by four straight victories at the start, but two consecutive defeats against AEK and Omonia doomed the team. A new string of four victories followed, accompanied by the championship’s first tie against Anorthosis.

December was the most difficult month for us since, although beating Ethnikos Achnas with so much hard, we were defeated by Aris, drew with APOEL, and lost again in the memorable encounter against AEK on 8/1/22. Despite what happened in the Arena and in the days that followed with the Rosales and Akoran case, our team was unaffected because, following this development, we had five consecutive victories, something that only we and AEK managed this year, demonstrating the difficulty and quality of the league.

However, from the 21st to the 30th game, our squad had nine unsuccessful results, including seven straight draws, a home defeat by Paphos, and another one tie with Anorthosis.

Obviously, the destiny of the title would be decided in the 30th game against APOEL in Tsirio, who was one point behind our club in the table. We would reach +4 two games before the final if we won. If we lost, the opponent would have become at the top of the table for the first time in the season.

The final whistle of Spanish referee Pablo Gonzalez secured our team’s 3-2 triumph and instilled immense joy in the lines of the blue and white family. Footballers, technical staff, and the fans became ONE and quickly followed the initial round for the crown, which was closest than ever before.

The second part of the festivities took place immediately after our 1-4 triumph over Aris. Thousands of fans flooded into the stadium, and hundreds more rushed onto the turf as the final whistle blew, grabbing whatever they could. Some of them took home player’s jerseys, shorts, socks, nets, grass, and even the crossbar. The date of May 15th will be remembered as the date when the blue and white family won their fourth championship.

The Tsirio party was relocated to Limassol’s streets, where Apollon’s friends lit up the night with hundreds of sparklers and fireworks to create a magnificent spectacle. The peak of the night was when the team bus, complete with technical staff and players, arrived at the location where the people had congregated, knowing the apotheosis.

The final game was paired with the awarding of the championship prize and the celebration. The final result against AEK elicited little reaction and had no bearing on the mood for the party that would take place after the referee blew the final whistle. The 0-1 defeat was meaningless because Apollon had already won the championship with 58 points a week before.

The celebration that followed was out of this world. A spectacular fiesta that evolved into an amazing night for the thousands of Apollonistes on both sides of Tsireio, as well as our team’s ever-present television viewers.

The lights went down at the end of the match, and the countdown to the awarding of the championship by the President of the Republic, Nikos Anastasiadis, started.

The team’s fans created a fantastic atmosphere and an outstanding pyro show that stunned the crowd.

The evening concluded with the participation of Greek pop star performer Eleni Foureira, who delighted the audience with her dancing figures while singing “Caramela.”

The highlight of the night, though, was when Isra Coll grabbed up the microphone and performed “Caramela” on stage, which has become somewhat of a team’s chant.

The Apollon fans, who were on the team’s side throughout the year, had a significant role in the club’s triumph and victory of the championship for the 2021-22 season. Despite some poor performances and continuous draws in the playoffs, the Apollonistes were right there with the club, particularly in the key games of the playoffs, where all 10 tickets matches have been sold out.

It was a difficult and hard championship, and in order to win it, a lot of work and a lot of effort had to be put in.

The league’s quirks and competitiveness were apparent early on. Everyone was losing points, and there were shocks and unexpected results on a weekly basis. Exception of Apollon, the championship contenders lost points to “lower” clubs, since their single point loss came in the 21st game, when we were startled by a tie with PAEEK.

This consistency and success against the “small ones” may have been the keys to reaching the objective. Whereas others were taken by surprise, Apollo easily or reluctantly won the battles. It was no accident that our club led the league in 27 of the 32 games.

Detailed roster and stats:

Alexander Jovanovic 27       0  9
Demetris Demetriou 5       0 2
Amine Khammas 30 1     1 4
Haitam Aleesami 20       0  
Andreas Panayiotou 24       0  
Charis Mavrias 25   1   1 4
Wellington Nascimento 9     1 1  
Chambos Kyriakou 23   1   1 1
Vukasin Jovanovic 11       0  
Danilo Spoljaric 17   2   2  
Alexander Noyok 9   1   1  
Arnaud Djoum 10       0  
Fanos Katelaris 13       0 1
Petros Psychas 15 1     1 1
Giorgos Malekkides 4       0  
Bassel Jradi 22   3   3 1
Rangelo Janga 26   3 1 4 1
Sasa Markovic 1       0  
Hervin Ongenda 8   1   1 1
Bagaliy Dabo 25 1 5 3 9 2
Giorgi Papunashvili 1       0  
Revazi Injgia 14     1 1 1
Ioannis Pittas 24 1 9 1 11 5
Ilian Iliev 26 1     1 2
Christos Almpanis 25 2 3   5  
Luca Stor 7   1   1 1
Nicola Diguiny 12   3 1 4 2
Owngoals         2