A Brazilian with a Greek name
For Australian soccer in the '60s, there was one big Greek name that dominated: Kosta Nestoridis
He is considered to be one of the greatest soccer players that ever graced with the game. He played for AEK, the third most successful soccer club in the Superleague, a club founded and supported by refuges from Constantinople and Asia Minor, for the national team of Greece and for two years for VPL club, South Melbourne.
He is Kosta Nestoridis.
If soccer was or still is part of your family upbringing all you have to do in order to find out more about this living legend is ask, ask your parents or your grandparents who saw him playing for South Melbourne back in the 1960's (then called South Melbourne Hellas).
He was 36 years old when he joined South Melbourne in 1966 as a coach and as a soccer player in the forward line. In his first year, South Melbourne won the local championship. In front of a 20,000 strong crowd, the Greek sponsored team went up against the Italian sponsored club Juventus, with Nestoridis declared the top scorer in the championship.
Anyone who saw him playing at Albert Park where Lakeside Stadium now stands, or at Olympic Park, still remember his ability to dribble and waited to see him score numerous goals in the one game.
Australian journalist like Fred Villiers who saw him playing in those years famously wrote, "He is not a Greek player… he is a Brazilian with a Greek name".
Kostas Nestoridis was born in the northern Greek city of Drama in 1930. His family fled Asia Minor catastrophe and moved to the Athenian suburb of Kalithea to make a living. Nestoridis led a poor life, but innocently playing soccer with the neighbourhood kids in the streets made him a superstar.
When scouters discovered him in the late 1940's he immediately got the opportunity to play for Panionios, another historical Superleague soccer club. The club was founded in Smyrna and drew most of his support amongst the Asia Minor refuges who flooded Greece after the Greco-Turkish war in 1922.
For AEK Athens he started playing in 1957-58. A year later, and for five consecutive years he was the top scorer in the Greek Superleague, an achievement never repeated by another soccer player since his days.
"It was a different era then," he stated to Nikos Kitsakis in an interview published on Thursday's Neos Kosmos.
"In my era the young kids were starting their soccer careers thinking about the game, now they start a career in soccer thinking about the money they might earn."
Talking about his life in Melbourne, Kostas Nestoridis can't contain his enthusiasm.
"I remember South Melbourne Hellas and its supporters as if it was yesterday and not 46 years ago," he says.
"Hellas is still part of my life, it gave me a lot in those two years and above all it gave me the respect of the Greek community".
For the vast majority of the Greek Australian community today the name Kostas Nestoridis might not mean a lot, but for the 1960s fans, it brings back vivid memories not only of a great career, but of a whole forgotten era of soccer in Australia.
Soccer in those days was an important part of the identity of the Greek or of any other immigrant community in Melbourne and in Australia.
Soccer amongst other sports, was a vehicle of ethnic pride and cultural differentiation, where an immigrant Australia was calling the shots on the soccer fields of the country.
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