Whatever the rest of the season brings for Apollon Limassol FC, their coach Christakis Christoforou has already completed an unlikely double.
Christoforou has steered the Cypriot club into the UEFA Europa League group stage having previously led their women's side into continental competition. The former AEL Limassol FC and APOEL FC midfielder only took the helm of the men's team in March and duly guided them to victory in the Cypriot Cup. Prior to that, though, he had enjoyed a productive spell with the Apollon women's side, coaching them to five consecutive doubles as well as four seasons in the UEFA Women's Champions League.
Now he is back in Europe in the men's game and already Apollon have made a big splash by stunning Ligue 1 side OGC Nice in the UEFA Europa League play-offs, yet he prefers to focus on the impact for the club, rather than his own part in it.
"I am happier for everyone associated with Apollon as opposed to being happy for myself," he told UEFA.com. "That is just the nature of my character. I never thought I would be coaching women's football but I liked the work being done there and it was a proud moment to see the improvement during my time at Apollon's women's team. When the offer came at the men's team, I couldn't turn it down and it was great to be able to help turn things around because there were problems when I arrived and confidence was quite low."
Christoforou, 49, is a highly respected figure in his country's coaching circles. President of the Cyprus Football Coaches' Association, he has also overseen the academies at Apollon, APOEL FC and the national Under-17 team, but now comes his biggest challenge yet. Apollon began their UEFA Europa League Group J campaign with a 2-1 home loss to Trabzonspor AŞ and they really will be up against it if they lose at Legia Warszawa on Thursday.
"They are a great side just like the other teams in our group," said Christoforou, whose team will also face SS Lazio. "Our group opponents play at another level but we will try and compete just like in all our games."
Christoforou's charges had a morale-boosting 2-1 weekend win over Alki Larnaca FC – climbing up to third in the Cypriot First Division table, one point behind leaders AEL Limassol FC – and the coach is keeping an eye on the bigger picture. "We know our limitations and we are not under any illusions in this competition. At the moment, our targets are to bring our budget down, get back into Europe next season and invest in young players. The Europa League serves as a great piece of experience both for the club and our youngsters."