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PAOK FC (Toumba Stadium)

Toumba Stadium

Capacity: 28,701
Address: Toumba Stadium, Mikras Asias 1, Thessaloniki 544 54, Greece
Telephone: +302310954050
Pitch Size: 106m x 71 m (348ft x 233ft)
Pitch Type: Grass
Club Nickname: Double-Headed Eagle of the North
Year Ground Opened: 1959
Shirt Sponsors: Stoiximan
Kit Manufacturer:Macron


                    
                    

Toumba Stadium is a bowl-like structure similar to the Emirates or the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. However, unlike those stadiums, less than a quarter of the stadium is under cover – leading to many criticisms about how much the weather can affect any given match.

But the weather is not the main difference-maker at PAOK FC – that honour belongs to the crowd. Toumba Stadium is known as “The Black Hell” for its intimidating atmosphere. Pyro, tifos and pure noise make it an incredibly difficult stadium for opposition teams to play in – even the likes of Diego Maradona have praised its atmosphere. Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal have also both lost there.

The outside of Toumba Stadium is notable for being completely covered in fan art and graffiti. For obvious reasons this art is constantly changing, but you will usually find celebrations of managers, current players, and club legends painted on the outside of the ground.

Away fans are typically seated in the south-west corner of the stadium, next to the main stand. This means that they are opposite the Curva Nord, where the majority of the PAOK ultras are located.

As you might expect, Toumba Stadium can be a hostile place for away supporters to go. In fact, away fans of rival clubs are generally banned from entering the stadium, so most derbies in Greece are generally played in front of just home fans.

This rule sometimes extends to fans of other clubs too – in August 2021, fans of Irish side Bohemians FC were told they would not be allowed to enter Toumba Stadium for the second leg of their Europa Conference League qualifier. These measures extended to checking the passports of every fan as they entered the stadium, with only those carrying Greek passports able to enter.

When away fans are allowed to attend, they should still take caution. Ahead of Hearts’ Europa Conference League match at Toumba Stadium in 2023, Greek police advised that all supporters arrive on buses from the city centre, and that “you may be at risk of attack if moving in small, isolated groups”.

Hearts also advised their supporters to be aware of the Greek style of policing, saying: “Police and security in Greece have a zero-tolerance approach to disobeying lawful instructions, so supporters are implored to follow any and all instructions given to them in an attempt to stay safe.”

Toumba Stadium can be an incredible place to visit as an away fan, but just make sure you follow all guidance given in order to have the best possible time.

As you might have guessed from the above section, it is not a good idea to show off your away team colours around the stadium. For that reason, we cannot recommend any bars for away fans.

That said, if you are just visiting Toumba Stadium as a straightforward tourist, there are plenty of places to grab a drink and soak up some of the passionate Thessaloniki atmosphere.

Sport Cafe is probably the best spot. Stuffed full of scarves, team photos, signed shirts and a PAOK clock, it is a well-known meeting point for PAOK fans. Simple food and cheap beer are the name of the game here.

The oddly-named Beeratis – The Beer Bar is also a decent shout. With cheap beer and a range of crowd-pleasing food options (burgers, sausages, chips etc.), Beeratis shows football on TV and even sometimes has live music.

The most recent developments at Toumba Stadium took place after the arrival as club president of Russian-Greek oligarch Ivan Savvidis in 2012. A former member of the Russian Parliament, Savvidis has close ties to Vladimir Putin and is one of the richest people in the world.

That, along with the club’s entrance into the Europa League meant it was time for major development at Toumba Stadium. The club renovated the stadium entrance, offices, meeting rooms, presidential suite, media facilities and the pitch.

But by far the most extensive works were carried out on the dressing rooms. The club fitted special ergonomic seats for the players, new bathroom facilities, an LED club crest in the ceiling, a cold hydrotherapy pool, and even a state-of-the-art audiovisual system.

In April 2022, Greece’s supreme court approved a proposal to completely rebuild Toumba Stadium. Populous would be the architect, the running track would be taken out, a giant roof would protect the stadium from the elements, and the stadium would have a capacity of 41,900. However, the project has now stalled.

From 1932 until 1959, PAOK played their home games at Syntrivani Stadium. However, in 1957, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki purchased the land that the stadium stood on to build a school. PAOK were forced to relocate and so settled on purchasing a 30,000 sq. metre section of land in the Toumba district in the east of the city. On 11 May 1957, they purchased the land from the Ministry of National Defence.

With a capacity of 20,000 when it opened, the first official match at Toumba Stadium was played on 25 October 1959 against the now-defunct Megas Alexandros Katerini. The first goal at the new stadium was scored by the visitors’ Vangelis Karafoulidis, a former PAOK player. Leandros Symeonidis was the first PAOK player to score at Toumba, helping his side turn the game on its head and win 3-2 on opening day.

PAOK continued to renovate the stadium for many years until 1971, when it reached 45,500 capacity and became the second-largest stadium in the country. However in March 1980, 18 months after the Thessaloniki earthquake – which registered at 6.5 on the richter scale – a gate at Toumba Stadium collapsed and left the stadium unusable for months. PAOK were forced to play their home games at rivals Iraklis Thessaloniki’s ground, Kaftanzoglio Stadium, until early on in the following season.

No sooner had PAOK returned to Toumba than Greece suffered its worst ever footballing tragedy, the Karaiskakis Stadium disaster in 1981, when 21 people died in a crush exiting Olympiacos’ stadium after a game against AEK Athens. This prompted stricter rules on stadium capacity, and Toumba’s capacity had to be reduced to 41,073. It was later reduced to 32,000 in 1998 when the stadium became all-seater, and to 28,701 in 2000 when security zones were introduced.

The stadium was used as a training centre for the 2004 Olympics Games, and underwent renovation in preparation. The headline addition was the metal roof which covers part of the main stand. A new four-storey building was also built behind one of the gates.

The last renovations to take place at Toumba Stadium came in 2012-2015. You can read about them in the section above.

Unlike many stadiums, Toumba Stadium is in a dense urban area with many one-way streets, so it can often be tricky to drive to the match. If driving is your only option, take the Thessaloniki ring road and take the Toumba exit. Continue driving south for a few blocks and you should see the stadium on your right.

However, the stadium has no parking lot, and it is usually very difficult to find parking anywhere around the stadium. You might be better off parking in the nearby districts of Pylaia or Triandria and getting a taxi from there.

If you are taking public transport to the station, then the bus is your best bet. There are two routes which serve Toumba Stadium, both of which go past Thessaloniki Station.

Bus 12 can be taken from the city’s main hub, Aristotelous Square, as well as the famous White Tower. You should get off at Gipedo PAOK for the stadium.

Bus 14 goes down one of the city’s main streets, Egnatias Avenue. Get off at Agia Varvara for Toumba Stadium.

Ticket prices vary according to the opponent, but usually cost around €10 for a spot on the curves or €30 for the main stand.

Keep in mind that the ultras stand on one of the curves – Gate 4. When buying a ticket, make absolutely sure that you are only buying on Gate 4 if you want to be in the ultras section.

PAOK’s rivalry with Olympiacos is incredibly fierce, and is considered the strongest in Greece. It began in the 1960s, when Olympiacos signed PAOK star Giorgos Koudas directly, without negotiating with PAOK first. This meant Koudas could only play friendly games for Olympiacos, and eventually retuned to PAOK two years later.

This rivalry has produced some incredibly dramatic moments. On 31 May 1981, PAOK manager Gyula Lóránt had a heart attack when Koudas missed a great chance against Olympiacos. PAOK players were not told that he had died until after the game, which they won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Vassilis Vasilakos – the man who had been sat next to Lóránt when he collapsed.

PAOK also have a rivalry with AEK Athens, with the rivalry’s most infamous incident occurring on 11 March 2018. In a title-deciding game, PAOK’s Fernando Varela had a last-minute goal allowed and then disallowed by the referee. In response, PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis stormed onto the pitch with a gun by his side and attempted to confront the referee.

The match was abandoned and the three points awarded to AEK, Savvidis was banned from all football stadiums for three years, and PAOK were docked a further three points. PAOK ended up losing the title by six points, the exact number that Savvidis’ actions prompted.

PAOK also have a local rivalry with Aris FC. Their stadiums are just 1.54km apart and the fixture is known as the Derby of Thessaloniki.

PAOK offer an Equivalent Audio Description Commentary service at Toumba Stadium. Fans can submit their request to use the service up to three days before the match, and then use the service either online or by calling +30 693684421.

For further information on disability access, supporters should contact the club’s Disability Access Officer Nena Agorastou on +306955251280, or email [email protected]

The record attendance at Toumba Stadium was set on 19 December 1976 when 45,252 supporters watched PAOK take on rivals AEK Athens in the Greek 1st Division. This game took place after all of the renovations had been completed, but before new rules limited stadium capacity.

The average attendance in Super League Greece at Toumba Stadium this season is 12,165.

Updated 23rd April 2024