The club's original name was POEL (ΠΟΕΛ in Greek), which stands for Podosferikos Omilos Ellinon Lefkosias ("Football Club of the Greeks of Nicosia"). In 1928, they added a track and field team and changed their name to APOEL, with the "A" standing for "Athlitikos."
In 1934, APOEL hosted a meeting of Cyprus football clubs which resulted in the creation of the Cyprus Football Association. APOEL won their first league title in 1936, then won the next four in a row. To date, they have won at least one title in each decade, their most recent one--the 20th--coming in 2009. They have also won 19 Cypriot Cups.
APOEL have enjoyed some success in Europe, playing over 100 matches in UEFA competitions, including the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Cup, and the UEFA Cup-Winners' Cup. In 1986, they were drawn to face Beşiktaş in the European Cup, but the Cypriot government barred them from playing against the Turks for political reasons. As a result, UEFA disqualfied APOEL from participating in any UEFA competition for two years (but later reduced the ban to one year).
APOEL are currently competing in the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League, where they have been grouped with Chelsea, Porto, and Atlético Madrid.