Panathinaikos has upset the odds to win its first league title in volleyball in 14 years, just two years after being on the brink of relegation.
The Greens faced serious financial problems in the last decade and twice came mighty close to the drop, but somehow survived and regrouped last season with the support of the outgoing owner of the amateur and the basketball divisions of Panathinaikos Dimitris Giannakopoulos.
The Athens giant grew in strength as this season went along, it finished third in the regular season and won the League Cup, before making the most of the shortened version of the league playoffs to win the title and complete a domestic double against archrival Olympiakos on Sunday.
After seeing off PAOK with 2-1 wins at the best-of-three semifinal series – with all games played at the Olympic Sports Hall in Athens due to coronavirus measures – Panathinaikos triumphed last Thursday at regular season leader Olympiakos with a 3-0 score.
Then when the final series came to its home court at Maroussi on Sunday Panathinaikos defeated the Reds fir the second time in three days, this time with a 3-1 score and sweep the finals with 2-0 wins.
“This team is coming from difficult but proud years, and as soon as we found some stability we have returned to the top,” said 40-year-old captain Sotiris Pantaleon, the only player linking this team with that of 2006, that had won the previous league title.
“The secret is to love the club and keep trying,” added Pantaleon after winning his fourth league title in his 22nd season at the Greens.