November 18, 2017

The Curse of Saint Nektarios and the Seville Soccer Team

It all began in the 1970-1971 soccer (football) season, when Dan Georgiadis, a former Greek soccer player who had played for Panathinaikos and was now a manager, had the inspiration to bring the soccer team from Seville (Sevilla), Spain to Athens for a number of friendly matches with AEK. At that time the Seville soccer team was one of the strongest teams not only in Spain but of all Europe. Georgiadis, who was also a cosmopolitan man and a polyglot who knew seven languages, and who installed desks in his locker rooms in order to teach his players sophrology, took advantage of the visit of the Spaniards, so among other things he even took them to see the Acropolis of Athens.

Throughout the visit of the Spaniards to Greece, Georgiadis would often speak to them about the miracles of Saint Nektarios, so he decided to organize an excursion to the island of Aegina in order to visit the Monastery of Saint Nektarios, which is where his tomb is also. Now Georgiadis had created the impression that when the Seville soccer players arrived at the monastery, they were about to see an impressive and magnificent structure, like the Basílica de la Macarena of Seville. But as the legend says, when the players arrived at the monastery in Aegina, they were not impressed, being used to seeing the grand churches of Spain, and they joked about it to Georgiadis with a collective laughter. (It should be noted that in 1970-1971, the Monastery of Saint Nektarios was not nearly as big as it is today.) This angered and annoyed Georgiadis, who was astonished by their disrespect, to the point where it is said he told them that their words would come back to bite them.

Dan Georgiadis

So when the Seville soccer team returned to Spain, their downhill ride began, steadily declining for the rest of the season. Soon after the team began speaking of a "curse of Saint Nektarios" befalling the team, for the way they behaved towards his monastery. And let there be no doubt, that in Seville this curse was taken very seriously. They believed it was responsible for knocking them down to the second division, perpetrating one of the most prolonged negative streaks in the history of Spanish soccer.

This curse overshadowed the Seville soccer team for 25 years, with no end in sight, making it a source of frustration to the players and the fans. It was then that Antonio Leal Gonzalez decided to do something about lifting this curse off their team. 1995 was one of the worst years for the team, and they were losing a lot of money in endorsements because of it. Antonio Leal Gonzalez was the son of Dr. Antonio Leal Graciani, who had been the medical leader for the team throughout the 1970's. He found an opportunity in late October of 1995, when the UEFA Cup was on the line in a match between Olympiacos and Sevilla in Athens. At this time he visited Aegina after 25 years to make a tribute offering to Saint Nektarios in order to lift the curse from the Seville team.

Sevilla team 1970-1971

Gonzalez arrived in Aegina, and took a taxi to the Monastery of Saint Nektarios. After climbing the hill to the monastery, he entered the chapel that contained the remains of the Saint. There he deposited a bouquet of flowers under his icon. Hoping that this was enough, he returned to Athens. The next day was the championship match. Just when all hope seemed to be lost, the Seville team was victorious at the last moment.

What followed was the conquest of a Spanish Cup, a Super Cup, four UEFA/Euro Cups and a European Super Cup.

And till this day at home, in every important game they play (especially the Europa League ones) the players share some drinks and joy with Saint Nektarios (as seen from the photo up top), to not offend him anymore.