An Olympic football tournament was planned. The Organizing Committee of the Games in 1896 learned that four foreign clubs were interested in sending a team, and therefore decided on March 17 to include football on the programme.
However, none of the four clubs came to Athens, and at a meeting of the Greek Olympic Organizing Committee on March 28, it was in principle decided to delete football from the official Olympic programme due to the small number of participants. The deadline for both federations and clubs to sign up was six days later (April 3). By that day the Secretary-General had only received name lists from Greece and Denmark.
Football was thus (like boxing, cricket, horse racing, rowing and sailing) only unofficially part of the Olympic programme in Athens in 1896. The local organizing committee later awarded the Danish football players bronze medals.
The Danish players were members of either Københavns Roklub (KR) or
Østerbro Boldklub (ØB), who both had red and white as their club
colours - just like the Danish flag. KR (founded on October 20, 1866)
and ØB (founded on September 1, 1894) had both been among the founding
members of the Dansk Idræts-Forbund (DIF, Danish Sports Confederation),
founded on February 14, 1896, which selected the team sent to Athens.
During the winter break between October 1895 and April 1896 several players left Boldklubben Frem, apparently for economic reasons. Two of them, Axel Andersen Byrval and Peter Mikkelsen, switched to B 93 and participated in DBU's tournament in the season 1895-96, while the others entered ØB, where they replaced those players of the club who were in Athens.
King George opened the Olympic Games (as in 1906); Crown Prince Constantine chaired the National Olympic Organizing Committee. His younger brother, George, Prince of both Greece and Denmark, refereed the football match.
April 12, 1896; match started 15.40. Podilatikos Syllogos Athinon (Greece) lost to Dansk Idræts-Forbund (Denmark) NB: result given as 0-9 or 0-15 in various sources. Podilatikos Syllogos Athinon (Greece): Pavlos Koundouriotis, Kavalieratos Anninos, Konstantinos Zervoudakis, Dimitrios Petrokokkinos, Georgios Karamanos, Stavros Antoniadis, Spyridon Angonakis, P. Gasparis, Epamaindos Harilaos, Georgios Nikolopoulos, Eleftherios Psaroudas - Sub: Ioannis Ipitis. Dansk Idræts-Forbund (Denmark): Line-up unknown (team consisted of Danish sailors and businessmen, members of the Østerbro Boldklub, who happened to be in Athens, plus Eugen Schmidt and Holger Nielsen of Københavns Roklub) Referee: George (Prince of both Greece and Denmark) Attendance: 6,000, Neo Phaliron Velodrome
The reason why there is different information about the result of the football match and why it was more or less ignored, is a recommendation from Crown Prince Constantine, who publicly said that the sports, such as football, which were not part of the official Olympic programme, should not be mentioned. According to Raoul Fabens, a French member of the Organizing Committee, this reversal indicated the challenges in the preparations for the 1896 Games.
This document is a short English version of an article in Danish by the same author that will be published at the opening of the Danish Football Museum in 2026.
Note that the IOC does not acknowledge that football was played at the 1896 Olympics; however, there is incontrovertible evidence that the above match was played and part of the (unofficial) programme.
Prepared and maintained by Nitzan Zilburg
Author: Nitzan Zilburg
Last updated: 12 Jan 2023
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