To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Cyprus chose Sotiris Kaiafas as their Golden Player.
Sotiris Kaiafas is king among Cypriot strikers. In a career spanning more than 18 years, Kaiafas was eight times the top scorer in Cyprus's first division, and with a total of just under 300 league goals, he fired his beloved AC Omonia to the league championship on six occasions.
Kaiafas was born on 17 December 1949, and joined the Nicosia-based Omonia as a 16-year-old. However, it was not until the early 1970s that he served notice of his talent. In the 1971/72 season, Kaiafas finished as leading marksman in Cyprus with 12 goals, a tally that helped Omonia to their third domestic title. It was the start of a hugely successful relationship.
Kaiafas, like other star players of the day including Andreas Stylianou, Panicos Efthymiades and Leonidas Leonidou, became a cult hero to the fans. At a time when football was played on gravel, not grass, and its practitioners paid only a pittance, there was a close connection between players and supporters.
Kaiafas recalled: "Football today is much stronger than it used to be, mainly because of better facilities, pitches, stadiums and training. When I was playing, things were obviously very different, but I do believe that if some of the players who were around then were playing now, the game would be richer in terms of talent and entertainment."
Kaiafas would finish as top domestic goalscorer in another seven campaigns (1973/74, 1975/76, 1976/77, 1978/79, 1979/80, 1980/81 and 1981/82), but his greatest season was 1976/77. His astonishing haul of 44 league goals was unmatched across the continent and won him the European Golden Boot award. "Winning the Golden Boot was one of the happiest days of my life," he said. "It is a very special honour for any European footballer."
International goals were always going to be harder to come by for a Cypriot player in the days of Pelé, Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer and, appearing for one of Europe's footballing minnows, Kaiafas found the net twice in 17 matches. That said, he did hit six goals for Omonia in the 1979/80 European Champion Clubs' Cup, including a double against AFC Ajax, albeit in an eventual 10-4 aggregate defeat.
He finally hung up his boots in May 1984, and can now look back on a remarkable career which coincided with the greatest decade in Omonia's history – they were league champions seven times. Kaiafas still maintains close ties with his old team and refers to them as "my second family". It is not just for his own achievements either; his son, the former Cyprus midfield player Kostas Kaiafas, followed in his footsteps by playing for Omonia for 12 seasons up to 2009, even wearing the captain's armband.
Last updated: 21 January 2011
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