Former Greek footballer and coach Nikos Alefantos, passed away today aged 81, after suffering a heart attack.
Alefantos, born on January 3, 1939 in Athens and raised in Exarcheia where he lived until his death, was one of the most characteristic figures of Greek football.
He played as a midfielder and started playing with Asteras Exarchion from a young age.
He then moved to AE Halandriou, PAO Rouf, Olympiakos Piraeus (participating in a championship match), Atromitos Piraeus (Kaminia), Olympiakos Chalkida, Panayialio, Panelefsiniakos and Byzanta Megaron, where in 1969 he ended his playing career.
Alefantos at only 30 decided to quit football and become a coach. In 1969 he took over the team of his neighbourhood, Asteras Exarchion, but coached many teams during his career, including Olympiakos, AEK, PAOK, Iraklis, Larissa, Panionios, Ethnikos, OFI, Kastoria, Panachaiki, Ionikos, Doxa Drama, Corinth, Apollon Kalamaria, Proodeftiki and Ethnikos Asteras.
He followed the training and competitive methods of great coaches such as Ernst Happel, Carlos Alberto Parreira, Enzo Bearzot, Bob Paisley, Arrigo Sacchi, Marcello Lippi and Carlo Ancelotti. He admired José Mourinho (whom he considered the best in the world) and Sir Alex Ferguson.
He had sharply criticised Barcelona’s “tiki-taka” style of play, which he considered extremely boring and harmful to the quality of football, while congratulating coaches such as Diego Simeone and Antonio Conte.
At times he had spoken very well about Otto Rehhagel (deifying the tactics that won him Euro 2004) but he had also sharply criticised him, especially for his choices after winning the European Championship.
For two consecutive years at the beginning of his career, with PAS Giannina in 1973–74 (for the first time in the history of the club) and Pierikos in 1974–75, he helped these clubs gain promotions in the First National Division, winning. In addition to these two titles, he has also won the Cyprus Cup in 1997 as APOEL’s coach, after a 2–0 victory over Omonia in the final.
Alefantou’s appearances in the media have been frequent in recent years, while from time to time he has also starred in commercials. He spoke a popular language that resonated with people.
In 1983 the popular musical group “The children from Patras” released an album containing a song about Nikos Alefantos entitled “Hello Alefante, you are a lad” that praises the character of the Greek coach, while singing about the injustices he has suffered.
He will surely be missed.