This Past Week in History

Anna Vissi performing at The Hellenic Initiative's 3rd Annual Gala in London. (Photo by Alex Vrizas / Courtesy of The Hellenic Initiative)

December 17th:

On this day in 1949, Sotiris Kaiafas, the Cypriot soccer player, was born in Mia Milia, Nicosia. He joined the Nicosia-based Omonia team at the young age of 16 but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that he really showcased his skill and his career took off. He was the top scorer in the Cypriot league eight times between 1972 and 1982. The 39 goals he scored in the 1975-76 season earned him the European Golden Boot, an award that is presented each season to the leading goal scorer in league matches from the top division of every European national team. After receiving the award, Kaiafas said, “Winning the Golden Boot was one of the happiest days of my life. It is a very special honour for any European footballer.” Kaiafas’ hung up his cleats in 1984, after a career that spanned more than 18 years with a total of just under 300 league goals. He is considered by many to be the best Cypriot soccer player and one of the two best Cypriot athletes of the 20th century. Kaiafas’ son, Kostas, followed in his footsteps and played for Omonia for 12 seasons up to 2009.

December 19th:

On this day in 1920, King Constantine I was restored as King of the Hellenes. After the outbreak of World War I, King Constantine was determined to keep Greece neutral, whereas Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos supported the Allied cause. However, the combination of the Allied occupation of Thessaloniki (1915), Venizelos’ formation of a separate pro-Allied government (1916) and an Allied demand for the King’s abdication, forced Constantine to turn power over to his son, Alexander, in 1917. On Alexander’s death (by what many believe was an infected monkey bite) and Venizelos’ electoral defeat in an extremely close election in 1920, Constantine was recalled from exile by a plebiscite (a vote by which the people of a country express an opinion for or against a proposal). Constantine was originally enthusiastically welcomed by the Greek people, but the enthusiasm did not last long. After defeat in a war against Turkey in 1922, Constantine was forced to abdicate his throne a second time and again went into exile in Italy where he died in 1923.

December 20th:

On this day in 1957, Greek-Cypriot singer Anna Vissi was born in Larnaca, Cyprus. She was admitted into the Cyprus Conservatory when she was only six years old. When she entered her teens, her family moved to Greece so that she could further her budding musical career. In no time, the talented singer caught the attention of many well-known people in the music business, including producer and famed songwriter Nicos Karvelas, whom she later married. However, after seven years of marriage and the birth of her daughter, the pair divorced. Over the course of her career Vissi has released over two dozen albums, most of which have been certified at least gold in both Greece and Cyprus. She has also starred in three theatrical productions and briefly ventured into television and radio. Vissi has experimented with different styles of music – from Western pop to Greek laïko and entehno. It has been said that after the death of Greek star Aliki Vougiouklaki in 1996, Vissi became the “darling of the Greek press” who now dubbed her “mega-star,” constantly appearing on covers and in fashion spreads of the most popular Greek magazines. In 2010, Alpha TV ranked Vissi as the second top-certified female artist in Greece in the phonographic era (since 1960), while Forbes listed her as the 15th most powerful and influential celebrity in Greece and fourth highest ranked singer.

December 22nd:

On this day in 1940, the city of Himara in Albania, was captured by the Greek army during the Greco-Italian War. During the mid-1930s, the Italians began their aggressive foreign policy and annexed Albania by the spring of 1939. The Battle of Himara was the culmination of the failed attempt of the Italians to invade Greece in the early part of World War II. It has been said that after the Greek victory in this city, the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, admitted that one of the causes of the Italian defeat was the “high morale of the Greek troops.”