Wiljan Vloet - Logo

woensdag 30 september 2015


At the start of April I got a phone call from Greece. It was a agent who asked me what my plans were for the coming season. I replied that I didn’t have any yet and that I was looking around for possibilities. The man asked me if I’d ever work in Greece if the opportunity arose. I needed some time to think about that so I promised him I would call him back in a few days with an answer.
Many thoughts crossed my mind: the possibility to become a trainer in a foreign country, living in a foreign country. I would have to miss my children, my partner and her children. I’d have to say: I thing Greece is an amazing country to live. In the few months that I lived there, I soon began to love the region Volos/Agria. But would I want to work for a Greek soccer club again?

I remember the phone call I got from the owner of Niki Volos in the beginning of July 2014. He asked me if I would want to be the trainer of his club. The club Niki Volos was promoted to the highest level of paid soccer in Greece. The owner (in Greece they call him “The President”) had asked Yannis Anastasiou, trainer of Panthinaikos and former player at Roda Jc and Sparta Rotterdam, at the same time I was active there, for information. The President wanted the Dutch working style for his club. The whole club had to adopt the Dutch mind-set and for that, he had found the right man.

Two days after that phone call I was on a plane to Greece. At the airport there were three people waiting for me. I knew none of them. I suspected that they were employees of The President. Once we got in the car a conversation started slowly.
Two of them spoke Greek only and one was an older man who used to train youth in Germany. They told me that they were asked to be the agents for my case by The President. I immediately told them that I have my own agent, who takes care of my cases at the clubs. They didn’t seem to understand what I was saying, but they were very polite, carrying my bags and opening the doors for me.

My first meeting with The President was quite something. He was sitting in his huge office behind an even huger desk with a cigar and beads in his hand ready to receive me. On two chairs in the corner I saw two sturdy men reading something. I soon found out that these gentlemen were his personal bodyguards. I stayed for four days and we had many conversations about the policy and the future of Niki Volos.
I went back to Holland after making the deal that we would be in contact after a few days to discuss if this was going to work. By that time, I was pretty excited. I had been asking around and I could see myself going on this adventure. The President called me after two days and told me that he wanted nothing more than to work together with me. This was when trouble started.

The President thought that I would handle the case with the same people that had picked me up from the airport. Of course I indicated that I didn’t want that, and that I have my own agent.  He left things open, and told me to arrange it myself. I let him call my agent to work it out the verbal agreements.
I went back to Greece to get to know the club better. At the airport, the same people as last time were awaiting me. Only this time they weren’t as friendly as before. They aggressively made clear in German that I had to pay them for arranging my meeting with Niki Volos. In deafening silence, after a fast drive, they dropped me off at The President’s office. During that whole ride I asked myself where on earth I had gotten myself in to. This time they escorted me all the way inside The President’s office. I tried to tell The President that I wanted nothing to do with these men and that I only wanted to be represented by my Dutch agent.
But I wouldn’t be that easy to get rid of these alleged intermediaries. By this time they got a hold on my phone number, and I received some threatening messages. In the local newspaper a story was published about the “untrustworthiness of the new Dutch trainer”.  The President didn’t stay on the sidelines. He even supported them because “that’s the way it always goes in Greece”. Because I kept refusing to accept them as my agents, The President paid them a fee, to my relief. I never heard from them again.

I knew very well that I was starting an adventure and that everything would be different from the way they are in Holland. But in that moment I thought I had experienced madness.

I got to work and locked myself up in a hotel room in the heart of Athens to interview people of the club, players, and agents, and to watch videos of the players. I’ve watched so many videos right there. Nike Volos was allowed to have only three foreign players and four players older than 24 years old. This had to do with the rules in Greece for clubs that have ever been in financial problems, which was the case when this owner took over the club. Now it was a stable club that wanted to make steps so they would play in the top 8 in 5 years.
In Athens I had many great meetings with The President and soon we knew what path we were going to follow. I had my staff ready. We had got some new players and we developed a plan on how we were going to get through the first 6 months step by step.
From the very first day the whole team and I worked hard at this beautiful club. There was literally nothing there: not even a board to write on. On the first day of training the clothing hadn’t arrived yet, which caused everyone to be on the field in his own private clothing. After a lot of pushing the mentality started to change and we got a grip on the organization. We got better players so we were able to let the less good ones go. We got a laptop for video recording. We got heart rate monitors. Every single day we made a step in the direction of a professional club. We even started to work with the youth, train the under 19 team, and help the youth trainers. In short, we felt confident in the future.
I spoke to The President daily and it was nice to know we were still on the same page. He often told me when I tried to change something that I had to stay “that Dutch trainer”, and that I had to help him “change the culture”. Until the first competition match against Olympiakos Piraeus…

We lost with 3-1. A loss that the media portrayed as positive. They praised the style of playing, the Dutch trainer and the hard work of the Niki Volos team. But this wasn’t nearly good enough for The President! From that day on I lived in total madness. He became impossible to approach. He held speeches in the dressing room with his bodyguards threatening the players. His girlfriend, who I had caught in the massage room earlier that week, became chairwoman of the Board of Directors.
He completely changed the food policy, and medication wasn’t allowed anymore. The stadium had not been cleaned in weeks. The first complaints about payment default began to arrive. Employees as well as players of the club, who fought every single day to professionalize the club, weren’t being paid. After that loss every day was a fight to survive. And the problems only got bigger until I, after three matches against Olympiakos Piraeus, Atromitos, and PAOK Saloniki, three of the best teams in Greece, and on European level, got fired.

Three matches and zero points… But we had a squad where every individual player was growing by the day and a team that was improving their play together. Players were getting fit: young guys who had never played on the highest level. Slowly we had found a balance in the Dutch and Greek methods and we were able to say that we were working in a professional way.
On September the 16th, after my resignation, The President completely reversed to the Greek method. No food policy, a lot of physical training, no tactical training, no video material and training only once a day. He threw away everything we had built in a day. This was shown by the results.
My adventure was over and Niki Volos played a few more matches until The President himself decided to leave, and the club got thrown out of the competition. True madness and impossible describe in words! Because that would certainly not have been necessary if they had continued the path they were following. The fans of Niki Volos do not have any nice things to say about The President. It is madness that a man with this much power completely changed and by turning everything around also ruined an entire club. With my experiences I could fill a whole book.  That might be a good idea.

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