Adelaide United fans couldn’t contain their excitement. Last weekend’s matches against Melbourne Victory will go down in history, as the home crowd watched their beloved team sneak four goals past their natural enemies.
The team teeters in second place on the ladder, just one point difference between the top team. Within 32 minutes of kick off five goals had been scored in front of 14,115 fans – Adelaide’s biggest turnout since Harry Kewell played at Hindmarsh for Victory in 2011 when only 400 more fans turned up. The star of the game had to be Evan Kostopoulos, who managed not one but two goals, his first on home soil.
“Wining at home, being a local boy, nothing compares,” he told Neos Kosmos. The young 22 year-old is an Adelaide boy through and through, and rose to the seniors this year when he was drafted from the youth team. He’s certainly making a name for himself, edging through the ranks.
He even caused a bit of a stir when he showboated in front of the Victory fans after his first goal. His assistant coach, fellow Greek Australian, Michael Valkanis coached Kostopoulos in the youth side and is quite proud to see him mature as a senior player. “He does a lot of good work and a lot of unnoticed work,” Valkanis says of Kostopoulos. “It just goes to show all the hard work he’s done over the years and the patience he’s had, he’s broken through and done really well so far”. The team is certainly having more luck this season, only losing two games out of 10.
The change is all down to the hard line the coaches have taken and the more cohesive team. As The Advertiser’s commentator, Val Migliaccio says, “Adelaide is an efficient side, which doesn’t play the most attractive soccer in the competition but it keeps getting the results”. After the soccer budget was slashed when the new consortium took over in November 2010, it’s a testament to the club’s coaches as they take on more jobs for the good of the club. Valkanis is in his second coaching season for the seniors and continues to coach the youth side.
Despite the successfulness of the team so far, Valkanis is not one to be complacent. He knows full well that there’s always room for improvement. “There’s still room for improvement. Coaches are never really happy with performances, we’re always looking for ways to improve,” he says. He puts the team’s success so far down to better organisation, more defensive tactics and the signing of some great players, namely the Argentineans, Marcelo Carrusca and Jeronimo Neumann. The cohesion he’s achieved with the team makes it hard for the coaches to choose only seven to play.
Valkanis had the honour to go overseas and shadow some of the best coaches from internationally renowned teams. He visited FC 20 in Holland, Ajax and Barcelona FC and believes their football culture is light years ahead of ours. “The structures and the youth development is steps ahead of ours, we’ve been left far behind, we need to do quite a bit of work to catch up I think that’s going to come over the years,” he says. He understands there are barriers to overcome if football is to mature in this country. It’s all down to resources and time, he says.
With better investment, the players will improve and Australia will become a much more competitive in global soccer. Valkanis mentions swapping the focus onto the youth teams, and really investing more to better train players and therefore have a wider selection of good players for the senior teams and therefore the national team. It’s a sentiment even Kostopoulos has seen in his time in Greece.
He played briefly for AEK and Panionis and saw a much more mature football culture. “It’s a different football culture over there. It’s the number one sport, where as over here there’s football, cricket, it’s a little bit different. Soccer isn’t the biggest sport here. The culture’s different,” he says.