“King Otto”, the film on Greece’s 2004 football triumph, premiered in the US on Friday after widespread critical acclaim and theatrical success worldwide.
On Wednesday the real protagonists of perhaps the greatest upset in world sports history gathered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for the red carpet premiere of the film.
Flying in from Europe for the event were former Greek National Team players and coaches including midfielder Giorgos Karagounis, goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis, assistant coach Ioannis Topalidis and coach “King” Otto Rehhagel.
The film is a flashback to Rehhagel’s journey during the period from his recruitment for National Team of Greece, at the end of the failed 2002 World Cup qualifiers, until the historic triumph over Portugal.
Through interviews and archival material, well-known and less well-known details are revealed from the path of a team which, in a combination of tactical approach, discipline and talent, achieved perhaps the greatest surprise of all time in world soccer, with the leadership of the German coach.
King Otto is a film about the time Greece was at the center of the world
In a recent interview with Greek Reporter film director Chris André Marks was asked what it was exactly that prompted him to create the documentary and what, in his opinion, this enormous comeback victory meant for the Greek people.
“Apart from being Greek and wanting to champion Greek stories, I wanted to make this film because I love the theme of the underdog and enjoy stories of outsiders who defy seemingly insurmountable odds to upset the establishment,” he replies.
“When we began this project a few years back, Greece was inundated with criticism from the global press and very much felt like an outsider in Europe. I wanted to tell this story to remind people of a better time, when Greece was at the center of the world.
“The summer of 2004 was widely considered by many Greeks to be the peak before the subsequent crash, so it was an opportunity to look to the past for inspiration, something we do often in Greece,” Marks explains.
“The Greek spirit pulled them through”
“Some have the odds at 300-1 even, so I think a lot of things needed to go right, but Rehhagel’s inspiration and ultimately the Greek spirit pulled them through in the end,” the director states.
Regarding coach Otto Rehhagel, Greek Reporter asked the director about the famed coach’s management style, dubbed “Ottocracy.”
“I think the word that kept coming up for the team and Rehhagel was ‘respect.’ The players respected him and he showed respect to the players in return. He wasn’t influenced by anything other than his own judgment and the players seemed to trust and respect that approach,” Marks replies.