<< Home


Monday, March 01, 2010


October 1999: Cretan Stadiums and Bull-Leaping at Knossos


I can’t remember which TV programme it was featured on but the Palace of Knossos, on the Greek Island of Crete, has a central court which, apparently, was or is the world’s first sports arena. This was not a fact shared with us by the official guide book as myself and Family ExtremeGroundhopping made our way around the Minoan ruin in October, 1999 as I would possibly have paid it far more attention.

The court area measures approximately 27 x 57 yards (which is 24 x 52 meters or about one-fifth the area of an average football pitch) and can be likened to the plazas that the Romans built for gladiatorial combat. It is in this and similar court yards at the Palaces of Malia and Phaistos that ‘bull-leaping’ is thought to have taken place.

On display at the nearby Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is this famous fresco – originally on one of the walls at Knossos – that depicts an acrobat flinging himself at and over a charging bull. So bonkers is the concept that many learned historians believe that not only is it the stuff of myth but physically impossible too.

But not so as anyone who watched the entirely unrelated Episode 6 of Paul Merton in Europe (Monday night February 15th) will tell you. Paul Merton completed his slightly bizarre tour of the continent visiting various people and points of interest on the Iberian peninsular. The ‘Have I Got News For You’ panelist was taken to a bull rink but not to see a traditional Spanish Bullfight but a blood, gore – and largely – cruelty free Recortes. In Recortes the bullfighter dodges around and, importantly, leeps over the bull without the use of a cape or sword as can be seen in the clip from YouTube (above). That’s the Minoan myth theory kicked in to touch.

Pancretan Stadium

Heraklion is Crete’s major population center and has the island’s principal airport so it is here that we and most visitors land (two million last year) before dispersing to the many hotels, apartments and campsites that are spread across the island. The Palace of Knossos is a twenty bus ride from the city centre and a visit is an absolute must.

Brit Sir Arthur Evans spent much of his life, and his inherited fortune restoring the sprawling Minoan Palace in the early 20th century. In the city itself is the Archaeological Museum. Housed in a converted power station it contains a massive and fascinating collection of Minoan, Hellenic and Roman artifacts. The Venetian Fortress by the harbour is worth a wander around as is the city centre, but watch out for the crazed moped riders.

Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium

Since the relegation of their main island rivals OFI Crete from the Greek Superleague in 2009 the islands only top flight side are PAE Diethnis Enosis Ergotelis or Ergotelis for short. Both sides are based in Heraklion. Ergotelis (rather worryingly nicknamed the Canaries) play at the Pancretan Stadium 3 km’s west of the city centre, while OFI play at the Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium in the district of Kaminia on the main road out of the city, which by happy coincidence, takes you past the aforementioned Archaeological Museum.

Although the Pancretan Stadium was built since our visit eleven years ago its design is based on one originally put forward in the 1980’s but only became reality when Greece successfully bid to host the 2004 Olympics games and the Organising Committee in Athens named it as one of the venues of the football tournament. Built at a cost of €50 million the 26,240 all-seater ground hosted it’s first game in March 2004 (a friendly between Greece and Switzerland) followed by a number of group games plus the Iraq v Australia quarter-final in that summers men’s football tournament.

My offspring look out over the Aegean Sea

The Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium, more commonly known by its nickname Yedi Kule, was originally built in 1951, although numerous changes and modernizations have taken place since, including its conversion to a 9,000 all-seater in the summer of 2000.

The land on which the ground is built was, until the end of WWII, an abandoned Christian, Jewish and Armenian cemetery. One night fan’s and officials of OFI (who up until that point had presumably been playing elsewhere) cordoned off the area with fencing and returned later with a bulldozer to flatten out the land and turn it into a football pitch. Part of the old cemetery remains behind one of the stands.

Pavlos I. Vardinoyannis Stadium

Less than an hour bus ride to the west of Heraklion is Rethymno where we were based during our weeks stay. There’s not much NOT to like about this picturesque town. A great sandy beech and waterfront with a huge array of restaurants, bars and shops set against a back drop of a well maintained old Venetian town, a Venetian fortress and landmark lighthouse.

About two km’s south-west of the town centre is the Pavlos I. Vardinoyannis Stadium, with a capacity of 1,300. Consisting of a single stand this is a far more modest affair than its two Heraklion’s counterparts. Built in 1992 it no longer hosts professionals football following the demise of former tenant EAR (Enosi Atromitrou Rethimniakou) in 1999 but still sees regular use as an athletics arena.

Hania Stadium

And last but not least and a short bus ride even further west is the city of Hania. Built in 1936 the Hania Stadium is just a ten minute stroll from the city centre just out side the walls of the old Venetian town. Head south east and look out for its four floodlight pylons which are visible from most of the city.

At one time the ground had a capacity of 5,000 but of the original stands only the one on the western touchline remains. The original construction costs were covered by the wife of five times Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos who was born in Hafnia, while plans for an € 11 million facelift are in the offing.

Minoan graves outside Rethymno

There are other smaller stadia dotted around the island (there’s one in the shadow of the Ventian fort in Rethymno) that I will not attempt to cover here. But I hope, nonetheless, that my post has given you something of a taste for the island and its grounds. Facts and figures on Greek football are incredibly hard to verify as most info on the net is mostly, and unsurprisingly, in Greek, so if I’ve made any obvious mistakes please let me know - Efharisto.

Sepia pictures by Mrs ExtremeGroundhopping. Pictures of the Pancretan Stadium, Hania Stadium and Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium from Flickr. Picture of the Pavlos I. Vardinoyannis Stadium from EAP Athletics.

posted by chevblue at 5:32 pm

Back to the top ^^


extreme groundhopping

a (mainly) pictorial account of one man's obsession with football stadia, floodlight pylon's and ipswich town football club

recent posts

Football Statues
Scunthorpe United
Football Statues
Olympic Park, London
Ipswich Wanderers
Zerão, Macapa
Estádio Vila Belmiro, Santos
Estadio Cicero Pompeu de Toledo, Sao Paulo
Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro


:: Am I Supposed To Be At Home?
:: Black & White & Read All Over
:: Dub Steps
:: The 100 Grounds Club
:: Non-League Groundblogger
:: Each game as it comes
:: Pie and Mushy Peas
:: Local Bus Driver
:: fitbadaft
:: groundhog
:: Groundhopper
:: Six Tame Sides
:: FA Vase diary
:: Pitch Invasion
:: Llandudno Jet Set
:: The Amazing One Man Brake Club
:: Bill the Navigator
:: Grounds for concern…
:: My Football Travels
:: European Football Weekends


on tour in hampshire 2005

the various homes of QPR

other stuff

Powered by Blogger

Support Amnesty International


September 2000
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
July 2006
August 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
October 2008
December 2008
January 2009
March 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010

Ground Visit Record


AFC Bournemouth
(Fitness First Stadium)

AFC Portchester
(Wicor Recreation Ground)

AFC Sudbury
(King's Marsh Stadium)

AFC Totton
(Testwood Park)

Aldershot Town
(Recreation Ground)

Alton Town
(Alton (Bass) Sports Ground)



Aston Villa
(Villa Park)



Basildon United
(Gardiners Close)

Billericay Town
(New Lodge)

Birmingham City
(St Andrews)

Blackburn Rovers
(Ewood Park)

(Bloomfield Road)

Bolton Wanderers
(Reebok Stadium)

Bolton Wanderers
(Burnden Park)

Boston United
(York Street)

Bradford City
(Valley Parade)

Braintree Town
(Cressing Road)

Brantham Athletic
(Brantham Athletic Sports & Social Club)

(Griffin Park)

Brighton & Hove Albion
(Withdean Stadium)

Brighton & Hove Albion
(Goldstone Ground)

Bristol City
(Ashton Gate)

Bristol Rovers

(Hayes Lane)

(Turf Moor)

(Gigg Lane)

Bury Town
(Ram Meadow)

Cambridge City
(Milton Road)

Cambridge United
(Abbey Stadium)

Charlton Athletic
(The Valley)

Chelmsford City
(New Writtle Street)

Chelmsford City
(Chelmsford Sport & Athletics Centre)

(Stamford Bridge)

Chester City
(Saunders Honda Stadium)

Colchester United
(Layer Road)

Cornard United
(Blackhouse Lane)

Coventry City
(Ricoh Arena)

Coventry City
(Highfield Road)

Crewe Alexandra
(Gresty Road)

Crystal Palace
(Selhurst Park)

Dagenham & Redbridge
(Victoria Road)

(Watling Street)

Debenham Leisure Centre

Derby County
(Pride Park)

Derby County
(Baseball Ground)

Diss Town
(Brewers Green Lane)

(Sparshatts Stadium)

Ely City
(Unwin Ground)

(Goodison Park)

Fareham Town
(Cams Alders)

FC Clacton
(Rush Green Bowl)

FC Fleetlands
(Lederle Lane)

Felixstowe & Walton United
(Dellwood Avenue)

Framlingham Town
(Sports Ground)

(Craven Cottage)


(Emerald Park)

Gosport Borough
(Privett Park)

Great Yarmouth Town
(Wellesley Recreation Ground)

Grimsby Town
(Blundell Park)

Hadleigh United

Halstead Town
(Rosemary Lane)

Hamble ASSC
(Follands Park)

Harwich & Parkeston
(Royal Oak)

Havant & Waterlooville
(West Leigh Park)

Heybridge Swifts
(Scraley Road)

(Glass World Stadium)

Horndean Town
(Five Heads Park)

Huddersfield Town
(Leeds Road)

Hull City
(KC Stadium)

Hull City
(Boothferry Park)

Ipswich Town
(Portman Road)

Ipswich Wanderers
(SEH Sports Ground )


Leeds United
(Elland Road)

Leicester City
(Walkers Stadium)

Leicester City
(Filbert Street)

(Victory Road)

Leyton Orient
(Brisbane Road)

Lincoln City
(Cincil Bank)


Long Melford

Lowestoft Town
(Crown Meadows)

Luton Town
(Kenilworth Road)

Manchester City
(Maine Road)

Manchester United
(Old Trafford)

(Ayresome Park)

(The New Den)

(The Den)

MK Dons
(National Hockey Stadium)

MK Dons

Needham Market

Netley Central Sports
(Station Road Recreation Ground)

Newcastle United
(St James' Park)

Newmarket Town
(Cricket Field Road)

Northampton Town
(County Ground)

Norwich City
(Carrow Road)

Nottingham Forest
(City Ground)

Notts County
(Meadow Lane)

Peterborough United
(London Road)

Petersfield Town
(Love Lane)

Plymouth Argyle
(Home Park)

Port Vale
(Vale Park)

(Fratton Park)

Preston North End

Queens Park Rangers
(Loftus Road)

(Madejski Stadium)

(Oakside Stadium)

Romsey Town
(Bypass Ground)

Rotherham United

Saffron Walden Town
(Catons Lane)

Salisbury City
(Raymond McEnhill Stadium)

Scunthorpe United
(Glanford Park)

Sheffield United
(Bramall Lane)

Sheffield Wednesday

Shrewsbury Town
(Gay Meadow)

Shrewsbury Town
(Prostar Stadium)

Soham Town Rangers
(Julius Martin Lane)

(St Mary's)

(The Dell)

Southend United
(Roots Hall)

St Albans City
(Clarence Park)

Stanway Rovers
(New Farm Road)

Stockport County
(Edgeley Park)

Stoke City
(Britannia Stadium)

Stoke City
(Victoria Ground)

Stowmarket Town
(Green Meadows Stadium)

(Stadium of Light)

Swaffham Town
(Shoemakers Lane)

Swindon Town
(County Ground)

Thetford Town
(Mundford Road)

Tiptree United
(Chapel Road)

Tottenham Hotspurs
(White Hart Lane)

United Services Portsmouth
(Victory Stadium)

(Vosper Thornycroft Sports Ground)

(Bescot Stadium)

(Fellows Park)

Walsham Le Willows
(Walsham Sports Club Ground)

(Vicarage Road)

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

West Bromwich Albion
(The Hawthorns)

West Ham United
(Upton Park)

Whitton United
(King George V Playing Field )

Wigan Athletic
(JJB Stadium)

(Plough Lane)

Winchester City
(Denplan City Ground)

Witham Town
(Spa Road)

Wivenhoe Town
(Broad Lane)

(Kingfield Stadium)

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Woodbrige Town
(Notcutts Park)

Worcester City
(St. Georges Lane)


Cardiff City
(Ninian Park)


(Pittodrie Stadium)

Heart of Midlothian
(Tynecastle Stadium)


Northern Spirit
(North Sydney Oval)


SW Wacker Innsbruck
(Tivoli Stadion)


RSC Anderlect
(Constant Vanden Stock Stadium)

FC Brugge

SV Zulte-Waregem


FC Kobenhavn
(Gladsaxe Stadion)

Helsingor IF
(Helsingor Stadion)


FC Flora
(Lillekula Stadium)


HJK Helsinki
(Finnair Stadium)

(Hietalahti Stadium)

Tampere United
(Tammelan Stadium)


(G.Guichard Stadium)


1. FC Koeln
(Mungersdorfer Stadion)

Borussia Dortmund
(Westfalenstadion )

1. FC Union Berlin
(Stadion An der Alten Försterei)


AZ Alkmaar
(Alkmaarder Hout)

AZ Alkmaar
(Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam)

FC Dordrecht
(GN Bouw Stadion)

FC Groningen

FC Utrecht
(Galgenwaard Stadion)

(De Kuip)

NEC Nijmegen
(Goffert Stadium)

PEC Zwolle

PSV Eindhoven
(Philips Stadion)

SC Heerenveen
(Abe Lenstra Stadium)

Twente Enschede
(Arke Stadion)

Twente Enschede
(Diekman Stadion)

Vitesse Arnhem

Willem II
(Willem II Stadion)


Bray Wanderers
(Carlisle Grounds)

Dublin City
(Tolka Park)


Inter Milan
(San Siro)


Avenir Beggen
(Stade Josy-Barthel)


Skeid Oslo


Widzew Lodz
(Stadion LKS)


(Nou Camp)

Real Madrid
(San Bernabeu)

(Luis Casanova)


Orgryte IS
(Gamla Ullevi (Old))

Helsingborgs IF
(Olympia Stadium)

Landskrona Bois

Malmo FF
(Malmo Stadion)

Mjallby AIF

Trelleborgs FF

IFK Goteborg


Chicago Sting
(Comiskey Park I)

Chicago Sting
(Wrigley Field)

Chicago Sting
(Chicago Stadium)

Chicago Sting
(Rosemont Horizon)

Chicago Sting
(Rockford MetroCenter)

Chicago Vultures

Milwaukee Bavarians
(Bavarian Center)

Schwaben AC
(Schwaben Center)

Tampa Bay Rowdies
(Tampa Bay Stadium)