Historic rivals of currently dominant APOEL, AC Omonia had their glory days in the 1970s and 1980s – but financial constraints have seen the Greens also left behind AEL Limassol and Anorthosis Famagusta.
Recently, the club has resorted to a fund-raising campaign, looking to their passionate, committed and mainly left-wing fan base to survive.
Omonia sprang from the Greek Civil War of 1948. A breakaway group of APOEL members under Mattheos Papapetrou objected to a perceived pro-government attitude in the APOEL boardroom, and formed their own club.
For five years, Omonia played in the off-shoot league of a separate, amateur, football federation they had helped found. Returning to the fold of the main Cyprus FA in 1953, the Greens struggled initially, before gaining a first championship in 1961.
Title-winning coach Nako Tsaikmakov would be the first of nearly 20 subsequent managers from Bulgaria who would guide Omonia through their golden era of 15 titles over two decades from 1972 onwards.
For Omonia fans, though, there was only one figurehead: Sotiris Kaiafas. This legend made his debut as a teenager in 1967, shortly after their second title win. Teaming up with a veteran of that 1964-65 campaign, striker Andreas Stylianou, Kaiafas was unstoppable in front of goal.
Top scorer during the championship-winning season of 1971-72, Kaiafas really hit his stride later in the decade. Top league scorer in seven seasons from 1973-74, Kaiafas brought the title to Omonia nine times, winning the Golden Boot in 1976. Three years later he scored twice as Omonia beat a weakened Ajax 4-0 in the European Cup.
His 250-plus goals tally may have increased had Kaiafas not had to flee during the Turkish invasion of 1974. He retired in 1984. Omonia continued to win silverware until the early 1990s, when Kostas Kaiafas, son of the goalscorer, came through the club’s academy to man the midfield.
A permanent fixture until 2009, Kaiafas junior notched three league titles and four cups, aided by attacking midfielder Costas Malekkos, another key figure.
The man who replaced him as captain was Rainer Rauffmann. This journeyman German, who started at his Siemens works XI in Amberg, came to Omonia as unknown in 1997. Already 30, in his first season he all but bagged the Golden Boot, continuing to score hatfuls of goals until his late 30s. Rauffmann, a Greek Orthodox convert, then made his international debut at 36 – for Cyprus.
Having laid out a near fortune on big-name domestic stars Elias Charalambous, a young Georgios Efrem and all-time top Cypriot national scorer Michalis Konstantinou, Omonia won a 20th domestic title in 2010 – but had spent way beyond their means.
Efrem was joined by the equally talented Andreas Avraam, but Omonia sacked coaches willy-nilly as the financial crisis hit.
In March 2014, with Avraam gone and Efrem soon to follow, Kostas Kaiafas was made manager. Making fellow academy product Charalambos Kyriakou his young captain, Kostas then inspired the Greens to a heroic performance in the play-off round of the Europa League against Dynamo Moscow.
A goal from ex-Blackburn defender Chris Samba broke Omonia hearts in stoppage time at a packed GSP Stadium – preventing the Greens from a first-ever group-stage appearance in Europe.
Omonia share the national GSP Stadium with APOEL, just as the Makario had served both. Back then, at the height of the ultra fan movement, Omonia’s was the north end, accessed through Gate 9, the name of the supporters’ group.
At the GSP, Omonia occupy the south and east sectors of the stadium.
Tickets & shop
Tickets and souvenirs are sold at the Green Boutique, Athalassas Avenue 18B, south of the city centre, halfway between the old city walls and the stadium. Tickets are also sold on the day at the stadium, fans in the south and east sectors, prices around €10-15.
Also note that the hard-core Omonia fan group has its own outlet, Gate 9, on Archemou, just south-east of the old city walls, with its own little café. Don’t go in wearing orange under any circumstances!