I recall the first time I met Arthur Papas in 2009 during a cold, mid-week South Melbourne training session at the old Bob Jane Stadium.
Arthur, at the time, was employed as an assistant coach at the Melbourne Knights under the Chris Taylor regime and was tucked away at the back of the stadium with his beanie on and clip board busy. He stood out as he was taking notes on the training session and we managed to strike up a conversation.
I asked him about his opinion on certain coaches, players and teams and he didn’t waiver once to give me honest and direct answers.
It became quite apparent this young man wasn’t interested in building flimsy suburban football acquaintances: “I am here to do a job to the best of my ability and without compromising my beliefs and values,” he blurted out without apology.
“This is the problem in this state, too many people take people for a ride, they cut corners and they waste people’s time.”
I quickly surmised I had not met your average Victorian Premier League football person.
Highly driven and focused; opinionated and direct; educated yet street smart I observed him to have a siege mentality similar to officers in armies where he assessed you in three categories: “loyal and trusted friend”, “respected football colleague or ” the rest”.
Three years have passed since that initial first meeting and the rise of Arthur Papas keeps astounding the Australian football public.
Arthur based himself in Canberra from 2009 at the Australian Institute of Sport ,completing a Men’s Football Scholarship working with Jan Versleijen and Gary Van Egmond under the mentorship of FFA technical director Han Berger.
He is the only Victorian to have coached Australian National Youth teams since the implementation of the FFA National Pathway. He has finished a Masters in Sports Coaching and an AFC A license and has a learned background in Applied Science, specialising in Exercise science.
He rose from obscurity in 2011 to take the reins as head coach of Oakleigh Cannons, an ambitious club who hadn’t been able to reach far into the finals in its history, yet as senior coach for the first time in his career at 30 years of age he took them to a Grand Final only faltering in the second half to Green Gully after leading 2-1 in the first period.
After receiving the ‘coach of the year’ honours he quickly (though briefly) took the step up as assistant youth coach at Melbourne Heart before taking the dual role as assistant head coach to Gary Van Egmond and head youth coach at Newcastle Jets.
The journey now brings us to June 2012 as Arthur jets out this week to India to take on the role of head coach of the Indian Under 23 Olympic national team that also participates in the Indian Premier League. India is better known for cricket however it is an emerging football nation in the growth corridor of South East Asia. This role eventuated through former Australian technical director of football Rob Baan, who has taken over as technical director of football of the Indian national team, a relationship spawned from Arthur’s time in Canberra at the AIS.
An intense and pensive Arthur Papas had this to say about his next position.
“It’s a huge challenge for me – the challenge of developing a ‘sleeping giant’ into a powerful force. I’ll be following Rob Baan’s philosophy and this gives me an opportunity to work at an elite level.
My first priority is to bring my Coaching Philosophy in line with Rob Baan and Scott O’Donell to take Indian football to a higher level.
“It’s about the development of players by not looking at their size and physical attributes and instead stressing on the technical aspects. It’s important to understand and mould them playing within a system – the 4-3-3 formation which is now widely prevalent in all leading Academies all over the World.
“I feel the structure needs to improve along with the standard of Coaching in the country which will allow the athletes to develop to their full potential.”
No one can ever accuse Arthur of being scared of taking on a challenge. Indians are not known for their great physical or even competitive qualities, the culture is diverse and complicated taking into account its social, economic and religious differences in one of the most populated countries in the world. This time he will be managing people very different to himself and at the young age of 32 it’s going to be an enormous task. Haven’t we heard that before?
Neos Kosmos would like to wish Arthur the very best in the next chapter of his career. Good luck Arthur!