Albion fans will have an AEK legend staring down on them as they take their places in the much-cherished new home of the Greek champions.

A picture of Stelios Serafidis stands above the away corner at this venue with three names.


It is one of the many nods to the past by a club who have a bit in common with the once-nomadic Seagulls.

Pictures of great teams, players and matches of the past adorn the walls in rooms and corridors at the OPAP Arena (also known as Agia Sophia or AEK Stadium).

Unlike Albion, they are not quite enjoying statistically the best time of their lives.

But it possibly feels like it, especially to anyone aged under 40, as they completed a double in their first year back home.

Twenty years ago almost to the week, on a trip to Athens, I went to their home territory in Nea Filapelfeia looking for the stadium. The renowned bearpit called Nikos Goumas.

I thought I was in the wrong place.

Then a local pointed to the wasteland behind a fence right next to us and said: “It’s not there any more.”

AEK had moved out earlier in 2003, due to reported structural damage caused by an earthquake.

For almost 20 years they were away from their home neighbourhood, playing at an athletics stadium.

Okay, it was the home of the 2004 Summer Olympics, not Brighton and Hove school sports day.

But a return home was yearned for and it became reality ahead of last season.

For AEK to crown it by winning the league and cup was, to coin a phrase, the stuff of dreams.

Items celebrating that success still adorn the club shop, at one end of the OPAP Arena.

A museum celebrating their strong links with refugees has just been inaugurated and a club museum will follow.

Albion fans will be bused to their own area of the stadium.

But their location means they may well glimpse the giant double-headed eagle which grabs your attention as you walk from Perissos, the closest metro station.

The arena is compact, the stands close to the pitch and steep, with room for 32,000.

“No pyro, no party” reads one of many items of eye-catching graffiti.

The club’s basketball and handball teams remain nomadic but the football ground is a pride and joy.

As for Serafidis, he was a distinguished former AEK goalkeeper who lost his battle with cancer last year at the age of 86.

He made 323 appearances for the club, helped them win three leagues and three cups and served them in various roles after his retirement.

He longed to see them back home but, by a matter of a few months, did not make it.

But his image will loom large over the Seagulls fans this evening.