Dabizas on that Bergkamp goal, surviving a car crash and more

Nikos Dabizas smiles and then pauses as he considers the scenario presented to him. Would he, if possible, go back and foul Dennis Bergkamp to prevent the goal which was voted the greatest in Premier League history?
To recap, it was in 2002 that Arsenal's Dutch forward, with his back to goal, flicked the ball around Dabizas with his left boot, spun the other side of the Newcastle defender and finished with his right during a 2-0 win at St James' Park, where the two sides meet again on Saturday.
'We were going for the title under Sir Bobby Robson and were second in the Premier League…' starts Dabizas.
'But if you remove yourself from that inside story, and you think that the goal will be remembered as the best of the Premier League, then I will say it is worth more to let him go.
'I will explain. First of all, I am very proud to be part of it. It was the act of a football genius. I was not humiliated, I was part of something which relied on a great football mind.
'I am recognised all over the world for that goal. Sadly, I'm not the main actor, I'm the supporting cast.
'But this kind of action makes football so special. Why should I feel embarrassed? I held my hands up. Other than clatter him, I could not do anything more.'
Even now, debate rages as to whether Bergkamp meant it. Dabizas has his own take on the merits of intent or otherwise.
'If he did, it is brilliant,' says the Greece Euro 2004 winner. 'If he did not, it is even better, because of the speed of his reaction.
'If it was a heavy touch and he still managed to turn it into a goal, then it is more difficult. Either way, it was a piece of art.'
Over the course of lunch in the shadow of St James', it becomes clear that Dabizas has a different way of thinking.
He is a graduate of UEFA's inaugural Executive Masters for International Players, a two-year course where class-mates included Christian Karembeu, Juninho Pernambucano and Nuno Gomes. 
'We had a university team and played some games, but we were too good, we always had to give the opposition some of our players!' laughs Dabizas.
The 45-year-old, who returned to Greek club Panathinaikos as sporting director in May, adds: 'UEFA want to put international players back into associations and executive roles across Europe.
'Look at the English FA, they need more football experience at the top level. That is UEFA's objective. We have that knowledge, the smell of the dressing-room. We just needed to be educated on how the business is run.
'We visited Facebook and spoke to the chief executive and met the owner of Hublot. We went to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, New York. I feel richer as a person for the experience.'
What one piece of advice made him sit up and take note?
'Do not hesitate to employ people smarter than you, they will improve your organisation, do not feel threatened,' answers Dabizas. 'And do not try to prevent mistakes, they are the first step to success. This really made me think.'
There is a statesman-like quality about Dabizas and it comes as no surprise to learn he has been approached by a political party in his homeland.
For now, though, it is the complexities of football finance as opposed to Greece's fragile economy where his future lies.
'There is room for improvement in my country,' he says, 'but I want to give back to football what it gave to me.
'My priority for now is to be a sporting director, the link between football and the boardroom. The old British model of a manager, it does not work anymore, there are too many demands.
'If you have a guy in my position who knows the game, you can work together, you are not a threat.'
Dabizas admits that a role back at Newcastle - where he appeared 175 times - is something he would like down the line. At least on Tyneside he would not have to worry about being assaulted by fans of his own team, as happened at Panathinaikos - during his first spell at the club - where ultras objected to his links with Olympiacos.
'I was at a game and four people tried to attack me, it was an act of cowardice,' he reveals.
'If I was on the street, I would have fought back, I have that survival instinct. But I was representing the club, so I stayed calm. I told them, "If we are going to have a civil war, the club will go nowhere".
'But it gave me motivation to prove them wrong. In the end, we performed miracles. We won the cup and qualified for the Champions League with a very small budget.'
Dabizas signed for Newcastle in 1998 and within two months became the first Greek to play in an FA Cup final, a 2-0 defeat against Bergkamp's double-winning Arsenal.
'I hit the bar with a header at 1-0 - if that had gone in there might have been an earthquake in Greece, the whole country was watching,' he says.
Two goals define Dabizas's six years at the club - Bergkamp's effort and his own headed winner in a Wear-Tyne derby.
'I am proud,' he says. 'Newcastle fans who were 12 years old come up to me now and say they were there with their dad and it was the best feeling in the world.
'I have a huge picture at home in Athens of the celebration. I see myself half naked every morning, my top off, my team-mates on my back and the emotion on my face. The feeling remains the same every time I see it, it is that strong.'
Dabizas left Newcastle in 2004 shortly after a car crash in Athens in which he admits he cheated death.
'It was awful,' he begins. 'It was an old TVR and perhaps not the safest. It spun and I was thrown out of the window. I was so lucky that happened because the car caught fire.'
Not too many people count themselves fortunate to be thrown from a car window and also to be the unwitting victim of a football genius.
But Dabizas is always keen to learn. It is football which is set to benefit.

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