The life of Chris Kalantzis could easily be told through the pages of a novel.
At just barely 20 years of age, he left Australia, his home country, to travel to Greece in order to play for Olympiacos.
Yet as soon as he arrived at the airport, the officials of the red-and-white teams eternal rivals, Panathinaikos, snatched the youngster and had him sign for their club.
Fast-forward a few years later and a much more experienced Kalantzis, now donning the red-and-white uniform, would be the one to dash the hopes of Panathinaikos of attaining the championship title by scoring a crucial goal in the derby between the two clubs.
Kalantzis loves Olympiacos and he isn’t afraid to show it.
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Nowadays he lives in Sydney and, because he has a heart of gold, he has helped many Greek immigrants make a new life for themselves.
The now 53-year-old opens up about his career, shedding light on many key moments that previously remained hidden.
Speaking about how the interest from Greece came in the first place, he says that he was being scouted for several months by both the Greek giants.
“Let me explain how it all happened. Olympiacos had an athlete here in Australia participated in some event, who also acted as their scout,” he said.
“At the same time, Giannis Kalogeras, who was also Panathinaikos’ agent over many years, was keeping an eye on me. After the final against Saint George where I scored the third goal, they both approached me and offered me a contract. Eventually, Olympiacos booked my ticket to Athens and told me ‘hurry up’ and come to Greece so we can finalise the deal.”
Once in Athens, things didn’t exactly go as planned unon his arrival.
“I was waiting in line to get my passport checked and suddenly this man approaches me from behind and taps my shoulder. I asked him who he was and he told me to go with him. Eventually I realised it was Kalogeras,” Kalantzis said.
“He put me in a Mercedes and took me out to a boat that belonged to Mr Theodoros Vardinogiannis (former Panathinaikos chair). Both the president and my parents were on the boat!
“I was asked to sign with the club but I refused out of respect for Olympiacos who had paid for my tickets to Greece.”
Eventually though, he caved into the pressure, signing for the green team and playing for them for five years.
But in 1993, he decided to make the jump to go to Olympiacos.
“That’s another great story… We were in negotiations to renew my contract and I wasn’t happy with what I was hearing. Suddenly Nikos Vamvakoulas (former Olympiacos board member) showed up at my doorstep and asked what was going on.
“I explained the situation and he told me I deserved better. A few days went by, then he called me and told me that Olympiacos would offer me double what Panathinaikos were giving me.
“Then he told me to disappear for a few days and that he would come and find me to take pictures with the Olympiacos jersey to officially announce the move to the media.”
As a new Olympiacos player, it was difficult for Kalantzis to have to face his former teammates, some of which he had spent almost five years with.
Yet he claims he never shied away from a challenge.
“It was a bit odd. As we were coming out of the Olympic Stadium dressing rooms to head into the pitch, I saw next to me players like (Giannis) Kalintzakis, Louis Christodoulou and Krzysztof Warzycha, people who I’ve been training with for years. But that didn’t break me.”
And it was during this game that Kalantzis marked his name in the history of the eternal rivalry, scoring a magnificent third goal in a game that ended in a 3-2 victory for the red-and-whites with a bicycle kick.
“It was a move that I used to do regularly in practice,” he said.
These days, he still follows his favourite club, being a member of the Gate 7 (Thyra 7) fan club in Sydney, where he lives.