Zaragoza. The name brings thousands of memories. Geneva, 1991, Cup Winners Cup, the first European trophy, tears of joy, images that will never be forgotten no matter how many years go by, but also 112-102 for those with better memory, the first games of the 1984-85 season for those entrenched in history and a tournament at the “Pabellon PrincipeFelipe” in September 1992 for the those obsessed with the basketball team of PAOK.
It’s good that we made a few things clear. Casademont Zaragoza, against who PAOK plays tomorrow evening 19:00 LT) at the PAOK Sports Arena for the BCL is not what everybody has reason to believe it is. They are exceptionally good team that was nevertheless founded in 2002, spent about six years with the LEB until qualifying for the ACB and now getting to participate in a European competition aiming to go far down the road, just like it had happened with CAI Zaragoza. The team that PAOK beat on March 26, 1991 in Geneva thus winning the Cup Winners Cup trophy. However, that team was dissolved due to financial problems in 1996. The need for a team that loves basketball, as Zaragoza does, to have a basketball team, led to the creation of BasketZaragoza six years later, a team that is the evolvement of the one PAOK had played against, whose history though starts in 2002 and has nothing to do with CAI. But can the past be erased? Can there be even one person that doesn’t bring back to mind all that Zaragoza means to them?
So, what it is we get reminded of by tomorrow’s game? First of all, the Geneva final. PAOK’s first European title. The epic 76-72 against CAI Zaragoza, in a game that brought more than 6,000 PAOK fans in the center of Europe, at Geneva, a city whose name will always bring back memories.
That game though, was not the first nor the last between PAOK and Zaragoza. Two games had preceded during the same season for the groups rounds, with PAOK losing the first one (64-70) that took place on December 11, 1990 in Spain, but winning with an impressive 112-012 the second one that was held at the Alexandrion on January 15, 1991. It may had not been a final, but it was one of the most prolific nights in the career of Bane Prelevic, who had scored 40 points (10/10 free throws, 11/18 2p., 3/5 3p.)
The history of the games between PAOK and Zaragoza however began during the 1984/85 season for the same competition, the Cup Winners Cup. PAOK, in its first season with foreign players in its roster, Billy Varner and Dick Moma, came close to winning both, but at the end lost them both! With a score of 80-76 in Spain and Varner as its top scorer (Moma had scored 13 and Steve Giatzoglou 10), while losing 86-89 at home with 36 points by Varner and 18 by Fassoulas. One of most characteristic facts of those games is that Nikos Stavropoulos and Panagiotis Fassoulas for PAOK, as well as the brothers Pepe and Fernando Arcega from Zaragoza, got to once again face off in the Geneva final six years later. It’s also
worth noting that in the games of the 1984-85 season, Pepe Laso, the father of the current head coach of Real Madrid, Pablo Laso, was coaching Zaragoza.
This one is for the basketball … nutcases. PAOK’s last game against CAI Zaragoza, the team that he played against in the Geneva final and was dissolved in 1996, was for an international tournament in Spain. In September 1992, PAOK, was hosted by the CIP FIAT tournament (as the Greek Champion team), that was held at the “Pabellon Principe Felipe” and beat Zaragoza in the final 68-59, winning an impressive trophy that has its rightful place in PAOK’s basketball team’s museum.