Almost every week, the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague pits archrivals against one another. These games are among the most passionate in the sporting world, whether it’s El Clasico – FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid; the Istanbul derby – Anadolu Efes vs. Fenerbahce Beko; CSKA Moscow vs. Zalgiris Kaunas; the list is seemingly endless.
But no derby anywhere has a ring to it quite like the “Derby of the Eternal Enemies.”
When Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and Olympiacos Piraeus clash, the city of Athens comes to a stop. These two clubs and their legions of fans could probably fill up an arena for a table tennis match between the Greens and the Reds.
Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, who famously spent parts of two seasons on the Panathinaikos bench and was the last man to guide them to the playoffs back in 2019, likened the vaunted college basketball rivalry between two schools he coached, Louisville and Kentucky, to a “church league game” compared to Panathinaikos vs. Olympiacos.
Thursday’s clash will be the 20th time these teams have met in the EuroLeague. To date, Olympiacos leads the series 12-7. It has also won two of three Final Four semifinals clashes between the sides: in Tel Aviv in 1994 and Zaragoza in 1995. The Greens were victorious at the 2009 Final Four in Berlin.
While the rich history between these teams is what fuels the rivalry, for many of the players it is just that. History. Nearly half of them weren’t even born when they played those Final Fours in the ‘90s.
What matters now is the present… and the future. And with so many new faces on these teams, this rivalry could be primed to get hot in a hurry and stay that way for years to come.
The retirement of Vassilis Spanoulis has helped usher in the likes of Sasha Vezenkov, Shaquielle McKissic and Tyler Dorsey along Kostas Sloukas and, of course, Georgios Printezis as the Reds’ new leaders. Ioannis Papapetrou and Georgios Papagiannis are now the big names for the Greens with scorer Nemanja Nedovic and first-year guard Daryl Macon Jr. carrying the weight in the backcourt.
Some of those names can be counted on to provide the next great moments that this derby has to offer. Be sure to tune in tonight to experience the new era of this rich rivalry.
Seen at: Euroleague.net