He was born on July 12, 1924 in Thessaloniki. He loved and linked his name with Aris, but made history wearing the Panathinaikos’ jersey too. Phaedon Mattheou was an exceptional talent and an even more exceptional person who died on September 17, 2011, at age 87 leaving Greek basketball and Greek sports at large a lot poorer.
Mattheou played for Aris prior to relocating to Athens and putting on the Panathinaikos’ jersey for six years, before continuing his career in Panionios, Sporting and ultimately Unis Varese. While playing for Panathinaikos he won three championships (in 1950, 1951, and 1954) and had great memories of the games against Panhellinios, since the games between those two teams back in those days were the contemporary derby. He also has two championships under his belt that he celebrated while playing for Aris (1948, 1949). An article of those times wrote about him: “the giant Mattheou constitutes today Greece’s biggest hope for international acclaim. He has a multitude of qualities to the highest degree and that makes him invaluable. He is tall, cool-headed, great shooter, highly competitive, etc. With a peculiar left-handed shot that is 90% successful, he is always his team’s top scorer.” In 1953 an Italian sports magazine of the times had named him to the European First team. In fact, there is talk in the relevant article not only about his athletic qualifications, but also about his intense personality.
Mattheou also played in the Greek National Men’s team, being one of its leading figures. In 44 games he scored 539 points (with a 12-point average per game). He won the 1949 Eurobasket bronze medal in Cairo and the 1955 Mediterranean Games bronze medal. However, he was also the first coach of the Greek National Women’s Team. As coach he helped significantly women’s basketball, also working as coach of the Aris’ women’s team, which he tremendously helped form and led it to three Thessaloniki Championships (in 1947, 1948, and 1949).
He took his first coaching bench steps with Varese. He led the technical staff of the National Men’s Team, the National Women’s Team, Panionios, Peristeri, PAOK, and Olympiakos. In his capacity as coach he has also won a double in 1976 with Olympiakos and a Greek Cup with PAOK (in 1984 in the now legendary “final of the shaved heads”).
Basketball was the sport that won him over, but was not the only one he was related with. He played volleyball, polo, table-tennis, tennis, fencing, and was a member of both the Basketball and the Rowing National Teams. In fact, he has participated in the Olympic Games twice in different sports: in the 1948 London Olympic Games in rowing, and in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games in basketball!