Melbourne Victory take on Adelaide United at AAMI Park tomorrow in the A-League elimination finals series, and several Greek Australians are likely to feature.
Throughout the season Adelaide United have had a trio of Hellenes who have played in the first team including Nathan Konstandopoulos, his younger brother Kristin, and striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos.
While for Victory, speedy winger Christian Theoharous has thrilled fans with his exciting forays down the wing combining with one-time Socceroos midfielder Terry Antonis.
Konstandopoulos has been one of Adelaide United’s most consistent performers helping the club who were near the bottom of the league last year to a respectable fifth spot this term. He made his A-League debut for the Reds during the 2013/14 campaign, but the then teenager struggled to nail down a regular spot and only played four games in two seasons. It’s been a different story this year with the 21-year-old featuring in 22 of 27 regular season games for Adelaide United and ahead of the A-League finals the midfielder is buzzing.
“It’s fantastic to get the opportunity to play at this level,” Konstandopoulos told Neos Kosmos.
“I’ve been working hard over the last couple of years to get this chance. Now it’s about doing my best for the team and always doing my job every week. It’s great to be around the experienced players and to learn from them. I just need to keep pushing forward. Obviously, I’m part of this great team and hopefully I can do my bit to push them to the grand final.”
He believes one of the keys to gaining regular game time has been the influence of former Bundesliga and current Adelaide manager Marco Kurz.
“He’s definitely brought a lot to my game,” he says. “He’s improved the defensive side of my game and made me more disciplined off the ball. He’s also improved my structure, my awareness and my positioning. But not only that, he’s also given me the confidence to express myself more and to go forward.”
He wasn’t the only member of the Konstandopoulos family to play for Adelaide this season; younger brother Kristin also made his debut for the Reds, and says having his little brother alongside him has been a thrill.
“It’s been awesome having him here,” he says. “He’s a very talented player. It’s good that I’m able to teach him some of the stuff I didn’t really have anyone teach me when I was younger. We are very competitive and we drive each other each day. I’m sure he has a massive future and he’ll be playing regularly very soon.”
Much has been made of the Petratos football family with Dimi, Kosta, and Makis playing together at the Newcastle Jets.
Nathan revealed the Konstandopoulos family are in line to give them a run for their money when it comes to football siblings in the A-League.
“I also have a younger brother Jason, he’s better than both Kristin and me, and he’s waiting on the sidelines for his opportunity,” he reveals.
“He’s only 14 years old and he’s coming through the National Team Centre. He also has been training with Adelaide’s youth team sometimes. He’s doing really well for his age and should he stay focused I’m sure he’ll follow in the same footsteps as me.”
Meanwhile teammate Apostolos Stamatelopoulos made a name for himself. After scoring his debut A-League goal earlier in the season it was revealed he had the longest surname in the history of the competition. However, the 19-year-old wants to make a name for himself in other ways.
“It was just an incredible feeling to score my first goal. But I want to be known as a goal scorer,” he told Neos Kosmos. “My long-term goal is by the time I am 23 years old I want to be getting a regular spot at Adelaide United, be the regular striker and try and get 15 goals a season.”
Between round four and round 18 of the A-League, Stamatelopoulos made seven appearances for Adelaide. Considering United have a number of foreign imports in the striker’s role, the teenager was pleased to be given the opportunity to get so much game time this term.
“I did not expect to get a chance this early at all,” he tells. “I thought I would have to wait a lot longer but once I got my first couple of games under my belt and my nerves settled I wanted to keep my spot in the squad and try and play as regularly as I can and help my team on game day.”
Konstandopoulos says Stamatelopoulos has the ability to progress even further if he continues to develop his game.
“He’s a talented young striker and he’s definitely proved himself in the league this year,” he says. “He’s scored a goal, which he took very well and I’m sure he’s got a massive future ahead of him. If he stays focused, keeps his head down and keeps working he’ll be a talent for the A-League.”
Konstandopoulos’ fellow Greek and A-League final rival Christian Theoharous has also had a memorable A-league season with 21 appearances in both the A-League and Asian Champions League for Melbourne Victory.
The Greek Cypriot Australian won the A-League Goal of the Week, voted by the fans, for his fantastic strike in Victory’s 5-2 win over Central Coast Mariners in March.
Earlier in the season the teenager told Neos Kosmos that he was aiming high.
“This season at Melbourne Victory we want to win the championship,” he says. “Representing the biggest club in Australia and playing with some of the best players in Australia is huge. Even the likes of Leroy George taking me under his wing, Besart Berisha, James Troisi and Carl Valeri, they all help me and they want the best out of me. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Reports in the Australian media suggest that Theoharous could soon be moving overseas and fellow Greek Australian and Melbourne Victory teammate Terry Antonis told Neos Kosmos the talented winger shouldn’t be in any rush.
“He’s a good player and he’s got a long time in the game ahead of him,” he says. “He’s been doing well. When he’s come on he works hard. I’ve got high praise for him and like I say, you’ve got to let your football do the talking.
“With Chris, he’s young and I’m sure he will find the right time and the right place to go and it’s up to him if he wants to move.”
Meanwhile, ahead of their big finals clash, Konstandopoulos says any feelings of Greek filotimo will be cast aside on Sunday when Adelaide takes on Melbourne Victory.
“After a recent game there was a bit of a chat with Terry because we both recognised our Greek heritage,” he says.
“I have a lot of respect for him as a player, but heritage goes out the window and its strictly Adelaide verses Victory at the end of the day and I’ll fight hard against anyone to win.”