Greek Australian footballer Haris Stamboulidis is just into his second year at Columbia University in New York, but he has already tasted success in the Big Apple by winning an Ivy League Championship winners medal playing for the Columbia University team, where he is also studying for his economics major.

The Lions, as they’re known, clinched the title a fortnight ago when they defeated Cornell 4-0 in the last game of the season to finish co-champions with Dartmouth. Playing as a midfielder in the Columbia side, which won its first Ivy League title in 23 years, Stamboulidis was understandably thrilled to win the championship. He said that the team spirit, unity and culture was such that they knew they could do it.

“And it happened − we made it happen. That’s the difference. We had some obstacles to overcome and distractions to contend with … I think that’s what carried us through, our focus and discipline.”

One gets the sense that for Stamboulidis, remaining focused and disciplined are of vital importance in managing the demands on his time from the pursuit of his twin ambitions to complete his studies and work towards a professional football career. He’s taken on a big load, but feels comfortable with his decision to pursue this course.

“I really do believe I can do both. I think it’s really important that I stay on top of time management, getting the right sleep, extracting recovery protocols, and nutrition. There’s no space for slacking off or for errors.”

He says his ultimate football dream is to play for the Australian national team.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about it every day. That’s always on my mind and that’s what I’m working on each day. From a club perspective, starting [a professional career] in the MLS [US Major League Soccer] would be fantastic.”

He is looking forward to joining the Red Bull U23 side again for the US summer − as he did last pre-season. “My other goal is to one day play in Europe somewhere. That’s what I’m working towards.”

He also believes Australian football is taking off right now, and he would also consider it an honour if an A-League club sought his services, adding that he’d have to finish his studies before considering that option.

In the meantime, Stamboulidis says he feels settled in New York, although he is quick to add, “but if I were to say New York was my home, my mother would probably not be happy at all”.

“I’m really enjoying New York. I was lucky enough to see more of New York in the summer. It’s just phenomenal. It’s really a different world. It’s a buzz, there’s a lot going on. I just love the different cultures that exist.”

Stamboulidis looks forward to showing his family around the Big Apple when they visit him in December to spend a white Christmas together. His success could inspire his younger 15-year-old brother George to follow in his footsteps.

“He’s doing well, actually. He’s got a scholarship at Carey and is involved in the NTC. He also wants to come to Columbia, believe it or not.”