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 23rd--coming in 2014. They have also won a record 20 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).