Sunday night. Olympiakos went marching through Tuba and the arranged rendezvous to interview with Mr. Ivan Savvidis looks like it will be canceled. I look to the questionnaire and like a sweet cake in a time of strict diet. What will he answer to the question about Marinakis. To the one, about the new Toumba? what about Platini and UEFA?
The ticket though was booked and the interview was scheduled for Monday afternoon and wasn't cancelled. One of his associates told me to come and may God help us. So I went. And yes, Cavafy was disproved as the journey wasn’t important ,the destination was.
To meet people of the magnitude of Savvides for the first time, and the club he is representing, and have the opportunity to ask him so many questions that other people might never get a chance to. It couldn’t have be that rare if every now and then he’d gave an interview.
It could be a typical interview, 10 questions and answers ,thank you for the honor, we thank you goodbye.
Coming back from Salonika the same night I was anxious for one thing. Did the recorders worked? First one run out of battery after of two hours of constant recording, but the second one stood firm like a proud lad.
Meanwhile and after four hours of constant recording all my questions were answered. My interview is the biggest one Mr Savvidis , the shareholder of PAOK. The biggest I've ever wrote… thirteen thousand words
So it wasn't possible to be read at once, especially on the Internet. That's why it's going to be published in pieces in order to comprehend better Mr. Savvidis words. What you are going to read is the first part take it as an appetizer for what is coming.
The problem seems unnecessary before the sharp statement of the shareholder. Savvidis spitting words Like A machine gun and doesn’t leave anything to fall off the talk. You will see it yourselves. There's not a single answer in the so-called politically correct balance.
He is straight forward, he doesn't hide, he hits the target directly. Either about the corruption in Greek football or about the government, or about Olympiakos, his answers straight and always on the attack but always within the limits.
Greek football is in need of Savvidis to speak more often. Today he spoke about the referees, the journalists his family, Toumba and his childhood
Enough with the talking though
I give you Mr. Ivan Savvidis. Enjoy.
After being in Greece for so many years what is a feeling that dominates the decision to get involved with PAOK? Do you feel vindicated?
Something led me to get involved with PAOK. Every man is driven by something he believes in. Myself I can say the tuba feels like home to me. It's there where I feel the energy.. That spirit that guides me. Even as students back in the USSR when we couldn't believe or imagine that this country was going to fall apart many times we discussed about Constantinople what was the bonds that kept us tied to the place about the values he represents. We thought that it would be a great for us to be there one day. Constantinople wasn’t just a place for us; Constantinople for us was the big Orthodox Empire. For some reasons the center of what mankind has achieved. To answer the question I always say that life then No random lucky things that helps people to see things.
What do you mean? What things did you see?
I never in my life liked red colour. I didn't even know if Olympiakos existed at that time. I always supported Spartak Moscow. And today I am against Spartak. although that team has never done anything wrong to me. I had many cars in my life and recently I realized the only hard white ones and black ones no other colors no even grey.
Something drove you to take charge of PAOK...
Today is my 31st wedding anniversary. In 1984 when I got married my uncle gave me as a wedding present the jersey of PAOK. Then I asked him " couldn't you get me something else from Greece"? And he replied " I was in Salonika and everywhere they were selling that jersey, it was the easiest thing to find". That's why I say but they're not lucky things in life it seems like God was leading me to PAOK.
What was the charisma you saw and attracted you to PAOK?
PAOK wasn’t something that happened there and then. Even the first time I came to Greece with no money, they had the drachmas back then, even to put gas to my old white LADA. It was at that point I realized that I would like to connect my name with the team representing Constantinople's values.
When was this idea looked mature on your mind?
I started negotiating with PAOK on 2006. We could say that the negotiations Lasted for 7 years. I understood that there were some forces trying to put obstacles on that process . It wasn’t just inside PAOK but multiple obstacles out of this organization. When I set foot on that stadium I realize that if one day I owned the football team that would definitely be PAOK.
And the reason?
You can’t answer in one word.. I can now tell you that it would be better for me to step aside and let PAOK get relegated and then buy the team with a small amount of money and promote him again. That would be the correct thing to do economically speaking. I didn’t have ties to that team but I told myself that I don’t want to be a witness of that fall. Even today no one thinks enough of PAOK role. Years will pass by for you to understand the real value of this club. It is a mistake for PAOK to be treated like a small football club. PAOK is so much more. It’s a massive phenomenon. And this totality will defy so many things.
Your last game was against. Do you go mad when PAOK lose?
Wins, losses, happiness and sadness will always exist in Sports. When I spoke to the World Congress of Pontian Youth, I said that the time of PAOK's eagle will come and will open its wings. And then they will remember those words... I don't care what they say about PAOK. PAOK will always be there.
So, what drove you to buy PAOK?
I wanted very cautiously to understand what I was purchasing and how I would be able to lead what I purchased. . That was important for me. So back in 2006 in one of the negotiations, Mr. Orfanos the sports minister at that time was present and he told me "Please get PAOK" and I replied "you can listen to what they telling me". They wanted to get money for thin air without even knowing of what they were selling. They were confirming that they were ready to sell, I would take the plane come here, meet with them and they'd be like "Sorry but he who has the final call is in Athens", "So why did you invite me to come"? I replied...! They would say that the didnt know that was a second and third shareholder. So I realised that I had to appoint a legal firm, mr Lykourezos was the one. He was shocked from Warsaw she asked me do you understand what are you getting into and I answered him I did invite you here to advise me I invited here to do the legal part of the deal. At some point we found ourselves in a dead end which created that problem with Salpingidis. Panathinaikos was offering 2 million to buy him and I offerd to the shareholders to give them tha 2 million buy his rights in a way, in order for him to stay with PAOK. To this day I can’t understand why they said no. The only thing anyone could thing is that there were more happening behind the curtains. I said that so you can understand that my Journey torwards PAOK wasn’t a coincidence. It’s in my character, my life, if I love someone I love him truly and honestly. Even when I was at school people used to tell me that my life will be black or white. Either right or wrong.
Would it be possible for you to turn the switch and imagine life without PAOK?
No. You should know that everybody within my family is a PAOK fan. My wife is the most passionate of us all. We live our lives for the woman who is the most important and sometimes we get upset when something upsets her. That’s why I advise my son, who recently got married, that when he will be in the process of having a son the only thing he should be thinking at that specific time is PAOK. In order to be printed on his genetic code and all the values of PAOK would be pass on to him. I don’t want my grandson coming to me when I am old asking me why did I spent so much money on PAOK. I want him to ask me why I spent so little for PAOK.
How do you deal with the defeat against Olympiacos?
With great sadness. I had plans to meet delegates of the diaspora that came from around the world. But PAOK losses I get sick. I cancelled all the meetings. I didn’t want to speak to anyone no matter what the subject was. But this is football, someone is strong someone else isn’t, someone made a mistake, someone is lucky. If one day Greek football becomes crystal clear and clean, that doesn’t mean that we will never loose, but we will face them defeats differently. We fight for transparency and purity, we want to have an objective perspective. The least in order we can have good seasons in European competitions.
You know, of course, that Greek Football is constantly dropping regarding the European rankings?
Instead of having three teams in the Champions League, like we used to, we lost the ability even for only one team to qualify straight to the group stage. Why? Because the rankings of Greek football were shuttered. If we keep on moving towards the bottom people in Europe will think of Greek football as amateur league. We as PAOK have other plans. We want to be on the top 20 of the European clubs and then to be on the top 10. We realize that in order to achieve that we have to raise the level of the whole athletic infrastructure of the country. Everybody in Greece or the majority are Orthodox Christians. They are people with faith. That means that Orthodoxy can unite the people. I strongly believe that 100% of the Greeks are fans of football. Each Supporting different teams, but loves football. Football can be the center of a unity. Already our country is falling apart and it is more than obvious. I, Very often, say that we are in need of a National Idea. What that Idea would be today it may be expressed through sports. Once it was the Olympic Games uniting people. Nowadays Greek athletes don’t win nothing in the Olympic Games. Football could be a part of a National Idea. Thus every team would have the rights to dream big even dream of the top 10. To feel feasible and not impossible.
Will you always be next to PAOK?
Only God knows I'm going to carry PAOK on my shoulders for the rest of my life but I'm not going to betray PAOK's interests and my final goal is to make part the club autonomous. I want to be over 100-years-old in order to see with my own eyes the realisation of the ideas I have in mind
What is that you don’t want to see?
It’s not a shame for someone to be born poor. I was born poor and I cannot forget it. It’s a shame though to die poor. And that’s something I always have in mind. Secondly, I don’t want to witness Greece falling. And, thirdly I don’t want to see the dialysis or even the fall of PAOK. Factories open, if they don’t succeed they close. The moral fall and the dialysis of PAOK and Greece, has the same impact to me. That’s something I don’t want to see happening. I hope you understand me.
What are your proposals?
I said it before. I suggested in the high priority games, Olympiakos – PAOK, Panathinaikos – PAOK, PAOK – AEK to have referees from abroad. That way fans wouldn’t be coming to the game having doubts that the officials would treat teams different. Problem starts when the fans come to the ground feeling that referees will have a negative effect on the game. It is the referees that provoke the fans in order to react.
What exactly made you so furious?
Observe for how long Konstantinidis is on the ground injured, he will be out injured for a long time after that. I am not talking about the opponents who continued so they could score. The ref should have stopped the game, that’s his business to do. Come second half and every time the opponents of Olympiakos fell to the ground he stopped the game immediately calling the med team.
A former player of PAOK and Panathinaikos, Gordon Schildenfeld, in an interview for SDNA he stated that a referre told him “if you want to win a penalty tell your President to pay”.
That’s something our players were told at Karaiskakis. If you behave in a certain way you will finish the game with fewer players. I cant say that it is a fact but it is something that happened in the game of Veria – Olympiakos. Same thing by the referee that if they don’t change the way they playing the will be red cards. So it was and Veria finished the game with 9 on the pitch.
In the same interview Schildenfeld said that may times he came close to “kill” the referee. Do you feel the same?
No, not me. Why should we kill those poor people? They will die alone in their misery. Sooner or later they will vanish. That cant go on for ever. The sceptics might be saying that Savvides got into football, so what? For example. Olympiakos invested little and gained much. Now they invest big and yet not too many victories. 10 out of 11 players are from other countries, where is the success on that? There is none. Our goal is more teams to be independent, autonomous and strong. Only in that direction football might be reborn.
What are the differences between Greek and Russian football regarding the way they function?
The difference is huge. A lot of money invested nowadays in the Russian football. The autonomous teams are 8-10 thus it is very difficult to see different behaviors for any team. The rules apply in every case and generally that kind of people (refs) are afraid to do something like that.