Alkis Panagoulias, who coached his native Greece in its first appearances at the European Championship and World Cup and guided the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, died at his home in Vienna, Va., on Monday. He was 78.
Panagoulias suffered a stroke in January and never fully recovered, his daughter Debbie said. He called Northern Virginia home for 29 years.
The Greek soccer federation submitted a request to UEFA, Europe’s governing body, to allow Greece’s players to wear black arm bands during Friday’s Euro 2012 quarterfinal against Germany.
“It’s a big loss,” federation president Sofoklis Pilavios told UEFA.com. “He was a great personality both in sport and the politics of sport. He was the pioneer that led the Greek football team to their first-ever big successes.”
During his first tenure as Greece’s coach, from 1973 through ‘81, Panagoulias led the team to the 1980 European Championship in Italy. Greece didn’t qualify again until 2004. He returned to the helm in 1992 and led the team to the 1994 World Cup, which was held in the United States.
In between those feats, Panagoulias had multiple coaching jobs in the Greek league and oversaw Team America, a North American Soccer League squad made up on U.S. national team players preparing for the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles. Team America played at RFK Stadium in the 1983 NASL season.
In addition to his daughter, Panagoulias is survived by his wife Vanna, a local real estate agent; son John; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Money and King Funeral Home in Vienna. The funeral will take place Friday at 11 a.m. at Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Falls Church.
A 1994 video:
On a personal note, in the spring of 1994, I was among several U.S. reporters who visited him in Athens as he prepared Greece for the World Cup. We watched crowds gather everywhere he went. He charmed us with stories of his childhood in war-torn Salonica, of his playing days for hometown club Aris and of coaching the New York Greek Americans to U.S. Open Cup titles in the late 1960s.
In recent years, we met for lunch once a year (Greek taverna, of course) to talk about families and football. I will miss him.