The new home of AEK sporting club will open its gates to the world on Friday at 20:30.
The opening of the new OPAP Arena is already a sold out and the atmosphere will not only be impressive but also moving.
A photo of the lighting rehearsals that take place ahead of the opening event has been “circulating” on social media, which is riveting.
Up to thirty thousand fans are expected to fill up the stadium in the western suburb of Nea Philadelphia, hoping that it will aid AEK to the top of Greek soccer after years of mediocrity.
Construction on an all-new purpose-built stadium began on July 28, 2017 at the site of the old Nikos Goumas stadium. It will have a capacity of approximately 30,000 and will feature a unique underground road system that the teams will use to enter the stadium.
Although the project suffered from major delays due to local authorities taking too long on confirming certain proposals concerning the stadium’s road system, construction of the system finally began as of March 2020.
The previous soccer ground Nikos Goumas Stadium was a multi-purpose stadium and was named after a one-time club president who contributed to its building and its upgrading.
It served as AEK’s home ground since 1930. The Nikos Goumas Stadium suffered severe damages from the 1999 earthquake and was demolished in 2003 with the prospect of building a new stadium for AEK FC.
Unfortunately, prolonged obstruction, legal issues, and tight deadlines lapsed this prospect until recently.
For nineteen years, the historic club was forced to play its home games at various soccer grounds in Athens and mainly in the 70,000-capacity “Spyros Louis” (Athens Olympic Stadium).
Established in Athens in 1924 by Greek refugees from Istanbul in the wake of the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), AEK is one of the three most successful teams in Greek football (including Olympiacos and Panathinaikos).
The club has won thirty national titles and the only one to have won all the competitions organized by the Hellenic Football Federation (twelve Championships, fifteen Greek Cups, one League Cup and two Super Cups).
The club has appeared several times in European competitions (UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and the now defunct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup).
It is the only Greek team that advanced to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup (1976–77) and the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup twice (1996–97 and 1997–98).
AEK was also the first Greek team that advanced to the quarter-finals of the European Cup (1968–69) and also to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League (1994–95).