Greek multisport club Panathinaikos announces jump into esports

Panathinaikos fans cheer during a Euroleague Top 16 basketball match in Athens in January 2016. The Greek club is now entering esports. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

Internationally known Greek multisport organization Panathinaikos AC announced Thursday on its website (in Greek) that the group is building an esports division, in partnership with Greek esports hub and event organizer CowboyTV. The team plans to look into Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, FIFA, League of Legends, NBA 2K and StarCraft. The initiative may focus on recruiting players of Greek origin.

IGN Greece provided a translated announcement, in which Panathinaikos states, "Our Club wants to take this big step and is going to work with teams and players from different popular games such as League of Legends, Starcraft, Dota2, Counter-Strike, FIFA and NBA2K."

"Panathinaikos AC performs a groundbreaking move that is expected to give the Association substantial benefits and, through this innovation, we turn to Greek players who have already achieved something outside of Greece," stated club president M. Dimitris Baltakos, as translated by IGN Greece. "We now want to give them extra motivation and organizational framework regarding their involvement with eSports."

The Greek club joins Germany's Schalke 04, Spain's Valencia CF and Saski Baskonia, France's Paris Saint-Germain and the UK's Manchester City, among others, as major European sports organizations plunging into esports.

"Competition in the digital environment and the combination of speed, accuracy, strategic thinking, team spirit, etc. is proving to be extremely attractive and is chosen as a form of entertainment (spectators) and for some, as a career (players)," Baltakos added. "Panathinaikos AC, like other top clubs worldwide, wants to pursue this dream, always following development and progress."

Panathinaikos AC had fielded several successful soccer teams on the European stage since its inception; one team reached the finals at the 1970-71 European Cup, and one was the only Greek team to ever play in the Intercontinental Cup. Its basketball squad, Panathinaikos B.C. Superfoods, has won six EuroLeague championships between 1996 and 2011.