OFI Crete FC (Greek: ΠΑΕ Όμιλος Φιλάθλων Ηρακλείου 1925, Club of Fans of Heraklion 1925), is a Greek professional football club based in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. It is a part of the OFI multi sports club. Outside Greece, the club is generally known as OFI Crete FC, however, the name Crete is not actually part of the club's official title. The team competes in the Super League, the top division of the Greek football league system, and hosts home games at the Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium in Heraklion, Crete. OFI is the Cretan club with the most continuous appearances in the Greek first division. It has won one Greek Cup (1986–87) and one Balkans Cup, while they have competed seven times in UEFA competitions.
The club was founded in the autumn of 1925 by a group of Cretan athletes exercising at the same gym in Heraklion. They registered a new sports club under the name Omilos Filathlon Irakleiou (acronym OFI) which means "Heraklion Sports Club". The club's official scope was to participate at all kinds of athletic events and exhibitions. During the first OFI's years, the club's founders made up the majority of the members. The years preceding World War II were a very difficult period not only for Crete, but for Greece in general. Thus, it was extremely difficult for OFI to travel and participate in national football tournaments. As a result, OFI was limited to matches around the island of Crete and particularly with other football clubs based in Heraklion. Strangely enough, these local matches were more frequent in comparison to the official ones of former periods. Even though official documentation does not exist, elderly fans of OFI believe that the team played around 400 matches before the Germans finally occupied Crete.
During occupation of Crete in World War II competitions were suspended and players signed up to fight, resulting in the deaths of many players. In the first period after WW2 the football tournament restarted in Greece with a single Championship, the "First Division", in which only major football clubs from Athens and Thessaloniki participated, including a few teams which qualified through preliminary rounds. However, it was almost impossible for a team coming from the province to take part in it. OFI's squad in 1954 This situation arose because the Hellenic Football Federation structured a system in which football teams from around the country had to play many preliminary rounds before proceeding to the national championship. As a result, even though OFI was the top football team in Crete, they could not qualify to the national tournament.
Theodoros Vardinogiannis era. During the first 3 seasons of OFI's presence in the 1st Division, the Greek championship still had an amateur status. In 1976–77, even though OFI were rookies, they finished in 6th place and gained the admiration of the whole country. In addition Dimitris Papadopoulos finished the top goal scorer of the League season. The following two seasons OFI finished 8th and 7th respectively, a period in which OFI was never once defeated in Crete. Even the "heavyweights" of the league (Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, AEK & PAOK) struggled to win any points when making the trip to the Genti Koule on island of Crete.
In 1985, OFI appointed Dutch Eugène Gerards as the head coach, who remained for a legendary 15 years. This is still the record tenure for a coach in the Greek League, and will be a feat that lives long in the memory of Cretans. Gerards' first 3 years at the helm in Crete were nothing short of amazing. In 1985–86, OFI finished 2nd in the league and only missed out on becoming champions by 5 points. Gerards continued his revolution with a 3rd-place finish in 1986–87 and 4th place in 1987–88. As Gerards' OFI continued to achieve high finishes in the Greek Championship the team from Crete did something wonderful 21 June 1987. In the Olympic Stadium in Athens they defeated Iraklis 3–1 on penalties winning the Greek Cup. The game had finished 1–1 after regular and extra time. With string league position and victorious in the Cup OFI was at that time one of the major players in Greek football. The 1987–88 season was special for Cretans for another reason too – it was the first time in league history that OFI finished in a higher position than Panathinaikos, beating them 2–1 in Heraklion on the way, with a goal in last minute from Stefanos Vavoulas. This golden era also saw OFI participate in European competition – UEFA Cup 1986 and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 1987. Click for complete WIKI...