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Greek Soccer Legend Kostas Nestoridis Dies at 93

Kostas Nestoridis
Kostas Nestoridis in a wheelchair still attended his favorite club’s matches. Credit: AEK FC

Greek Soccer Legend Kostas Nestoridis, one of the best strikers in the history of AEK Athens and Greek football, died in Athens on Tuesday. He was 93.

Nestoridis was born on March 15, 1930 in Drama in northern Greece and was the youngest of three children of a Pontian Greek family.

In 1955 while playing for Panionios, he was approached to sign for the two giants of Greek football Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, who recognized his soccer genius.

However, he rejected their offers without the consent of Panionios because, as he has said, he wanted to play for AEK so as to remain faithful to his refugee origins. For his refusal, he received a two-year ban from the Football Association.

He eventually signed for AEK in September 1957. His arrival at the Athens club marked a period of renewal for the yellow and black team. “Captain Nestoras,” as he was called, immediately established himself at the club, and it didn’t take him long to become a star player domestically.

To this day, he remains one of the club’s highest-scoring players, widely regarded as one of the greatest to ever play for the yellow and black team.

Kostas Nestoridis
A gigantic photo of Kostas Nestoridis adorns AEK’s football arena. Credit: AEK FC

What I saw Kostas Nestoridis doing is neither taught nor learned

He and another legend of AEK, Mimis Papaioannou, formed one of the club’s most formidable goalscoring partnerships. In the eight seasons he played for AEK, he was always the top scorer of the team except in 1964, when Papaioannou surpassed him.

He scored thirteen times with a direct corner kick. One of these was the goals leading to a 3–3 score in the play-off match against Panathinaikos on June 23, 1963. This won the title for AEK after twenty-three years, and Nestoridis got his only Greek Championship win of his entire career. He also won a Greek Cup with AEK in 1964.

In the summer of 1966, Nestoridis left AEK after eleven years of presence and a constant search for a better life. In a complete professional rehabilitation, he moved to Australia and signed on as a player–coach for the expatriate South Melbourne Hellas.

Nestoridis played on the Greek national football team a total of seventeen times. Two of these was as a player of Panionios and fifteen as a player of AEK Athens, scoring three goals. His appearances were rather limited for a player of his level, as he did not have good relations with the respective selectors of the national team. He made his debut in the blue and white jersey on October 14, 1951.

Those who saw Nestoridis in action had something to say about his elaborate actions.

“All the great players I saw, including Di Stéfano, Puskás and Pelé, did things humanly,” Ljubiša Broćić, the legendary Serbian coach once said of Nestoridis. “What I saw Nestoridis doing is neither taught [nor] learned.”

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