|Full name||Nikolaos Petzaropoulos|
|Date of birth||17 January 1927|
|Place of birth||Kallithea, Greece|
|Date of death||29 March 1979(aged 52)|
|Place of death||Athens, Greece|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
He earned the nickname "Hero of Tampere", after a legendary performance with Greek Olympic football team in a match that took place in the city of Tampere in Finland during the Summer Olympic Games in 1952. He made 11 appearances as a Greek international footballer.
Early years and distinctionEdit
Nikos Petzaropulos was born on 14 January 1927 in Kallithea where he began playing soccer for the local Keravnos at 1940. On 1943 he joined Panionios F.C. at the age of 16. He was discovered by the goalkeeper-coach of the "red and blues", Giorgos Roussopoulos which he realized on the first place that Petzaropoulos is concerned of a rare talent. Soon enough, young Nikos established to first team and in 1948 he was first called for Greece national football team.
Every Sunday, he was giving a worth seeing performance with his exceptional reflexes, his ability to save the ball and his successive interceptions on penalty kicks making the supporters delirious. A characteristic is from an incident from a match at Karaiskaki Stadium against Olympiacos F.C.. Petzaropoulos shoots from the box, but due to the strong opposing wind, the ball reaches at the middle of the field. Andreas Mouratis of Olympiakos, which was renowned for his strong shots, unleashes a "thunder" sending the ball towards Panionios' goal post. On the 6-yard-line, watching that the ball is passing over him, Petzaropoulos jumps on the air, turns his body 180 degrees, stretches and punches the ball to safety, falling into the nets. The crowd was cheering him for his stunning save and Mouratis runs to him, helps him get up and kisses him.
That magnificent performance was not to be unnoticed. Inter Milan's coach, Alfredo Foni, who was on the stadium was impressed and he suggest him to sign a professional contract at the Italian club. In an age where Greek football was in a completely amateur level, footballers had any income at all, the professionalism and the highly wage that was suggested by Inter made him impressed. After all, Petzaropoulos was not from a wealthy family and he barely made his living.
The dream of a professional career in a European top club made him depart for Milan in August 1952. He signed a professional contract with Inter and started training with the Italian club, hoping that the administration of Panionios would give him his freedom. However, the unexpected departure of his was negatively handled and they didn't give in to the financial exchanges that the Italians were offering. The desirable transfer never took place even if he stayed almost one year in Italy.
In friendly matches with Inter, Petzaropoulos was also impressive. Indicative of the Italians' adulation for his figure, was an article of an Italian newspaper with a big picture, which was portrays Petzaropoulos on a stunning save, blocking the ball and literally being across the ground and little bit lower than the bar. The title of the article is "The flying goalkeeper" and the caption reads "Petzaropoulos can fly...".
Back to PanioniosEdit
Nikos Petzaropoulos returned to Greece, disappointed and embittered in 1953. As the press of that time describes, an impressive welcome was given to him on Larissa station and after a while he came back in action with Panionios. He didn't remind of the good old Petzaropoulos, the "flying goalkeeper" who was beloved by all Greeks and disappointed he retired from active football at the young age of 28.
The later years, Petzaropoulos was involved with coaching and after that he coached Panionios' Youth Team. His dream was to establish a goalkeeping school. In a short time before his death Petzaropoulos taught all his secrets to the young Antonis Manikas, which in a few years later praised his teacher after he saved 15 penalties in only 3 years and became an international footballer.
Petzaropulos had a total of 11 games with Greece, and also played in 3 matches against Turkey as Greece All Star. He made his debut as an international on 28 November 1948 in a friendly match against Turkey, entering as a substitute in the second half with his team losing 1-2, and with the score staying that way until the end of the match. During the period 1949-1952 Petzaropoulos played 8 matches which all of them were for Friendship Cup of Eastern Mediterranean against Aigypt (1-3), Italy B (2-3.0-3), France B (0-1), Syria (8-0) and Turkey (1-2,3-1,1-0).
Afterwards he was part of Greek Olympic Football Team in 1952 Summer Olympics at Helsinki on Finland, where he made his greatest performance in Tampere. His last match with Greece was on 25 July 1952 after the elimination of the Olympic Tournament, against Great Britain. Greece won 4-2.
Hero of TampereEdit
15 July 1952 was a landmark of his career. His 10th international game against the mighty Denmark at the city of Tampere for the Olympic Tournament of 1952 in Helsinki. At the presence of 7000 people Petzaropoulos makes the greatest game of his career. Springing like a tiger making a lot of saving interventions against the hammering shots of Dane footballers. Finally, the match ended in a 1-2 defeat for Greece but Petzaropoulos was cheered by the crowd.
Nikos Petzaropoulos was called the "Hero of Tampere" from the Greek journalists who were constantly posting glowing articles dedicated to him. The international press was accordingly encomiastic. "The New Zamora was Born" was the title of many European newspapers after the game, comparing him, with the greatest goalkeeper at the time.
The curtain was closed for Nikos Petzaropoulos at 27 March 1979. He died at 52 smitten by an incurable disease, failing to see his favourite team, Panionios, conquering the Greek Cup, after a few months. The sad news were top news all over the country and the sport press was showing long time features. He was mourned by all Greek football fans.
- Αλέκου Παπαδόπουλου, «ΝΙΚΟΣ ΠΕΝΤΖΑΡΟΠΟΥΛΟΣ: Ο ήρωας του Τάμπερε».