FOR the first time since lifting the Henri Delaunay Trophy in Lisbon 12 years ago, Takis Fyssas finds himself absent from a European Championship.
Euro 2016 begins in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis on Friday night when hosts France face Romania. Fyssas will be at home in Athens. He is out of work, and saddened not to be involved in the Continent’s biggest footballing festival.
Now 42, the former Hearts defender is patiently awaiting the right chance to continue his illustrious football career. He left his job as football director at Panathinaikos three months ago and is presently enjoying his first ever break from the game. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, and certainly not this week. When the Euros begin, Greece have always been there since that historic 2004 triumph – and Fyssas has always been with them.
He was a key figure at left-back in the team which won the trophy, and then worked as Greece’s technical director for six years. The run from Euro 2004 to Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 was the most fascinating and successful in Greek football history. However, Euro 2016 will take place without them. It takes some getting used to.
“I feel very sad, I have to tell you the truth. This is the first Euro tournament when I have not been there,” Fyssas told the Evening News in an exclusive interview. “We won the trophy in 2004 in Portugal, then I was in Austria and Switzerland at Euro 2008, and then in Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. I was busy at all of these tournaments with the national team, as a player and then as a director.
“Now Greece is not there and I am very sad about this. They made a very big mistake changing everything in 2014. You cannot change one team that has success every two years. You can make some small changes but you cannot totally renovate. It was completely crazy what they did to our national team. I feel great pity that our national team is not there, and also Scotland is not there.
“I cannot believe I am not there but I still believe in Greek heart and Greek soul. I believe we will recover. This is my first few months without a job since I was 18. I am trying to focus on my family and take time before my next step. I love football, I cannot live without football.”
He is using the time wisely, spending it with his children. He doesn’t plan on being out of the game long and has already rejected offers to work in Cyprus. A future in the director of football role is what he envisages.
“I want to continue to be director of football. I don’t want to be a manager or coach,” he explained. “I have it in my mind but I don’t want to do it now. I will continue to learn every day. As players, we don’t have the opportunity to do many things. When we quit, it’s like starting from zero. I started to study and learn things about my being a director of football. Now I understand many things.
“Three months ago, I left my job. I was football director at Panathinaikos but we agreed with the Panathinaikos chairman not to continue. Now it’s a time for me to relax. After I stopped playing in 2008, I got my first job immediately. I was technical director of the Greek national team and I was involved with the youth teams and academies too. I was there for six years and it was great to learn so much.
“I was involved in the World Cup in 2010, the Euros in 2012 and the World Cup in 2014. These were great experiences. After the coach, Fernando Santos, left I decided to stop working with the national team. Immediately, I got my job with Panathinaikos as football director.”
The mere hint of Fyssas returning to Tynecastle in any capacity would be enough to have Hearts fans salivating. He is open to the prospect but knows there is no need to disrupt the structure already in place. Craig Levein is director of football at Tynecastle, Robbie Neilson head coach, and that’s how it will stay for the foreseeable future.
“I was at Tynecastle twice last year and I spoke to Robbie. I think they are doing a good job there,” said Fyssas, who spent two years as a Hearts player from 2005 to 2007. “I have it in my mind that maybe one day we will co-operate with Hearts and I will be part of this great club again. I’m still in Greece just now. I had some opportunities to work in Cyprus but I didn’t accept. I want to be ready and open from the beginning of next season.
“If Hearts need me to help, I will be open to help the club if I am free. I just put myself open for Hearts because I love the city. Who knows, football is open for everyone. Maybe it will happen, you never know. Of course, I don’t want to mix everything up because I respect everyone there. They did a great job last season and this season and the team is going well, so there is no reason to change.
“If something happens, I will be open for Hearts. If I come to Scotland, it will only be for Hearts. I had an opportunity to go to Lisbon with Benfica because I have a good relationship with my old club there. I want to congratulate everyone at Hearts for having a great season.”