Yiannis Kosmas is your typical Thessalonikian. He lives in Thessaloniki, runs his own hardware and coffee shop close to the White Tower and is father of a young son.
He had little to do with Australia except when his close friend Kleanthi Papadopolous, moved to Melbourne a few years ago.
But along with their shared memories, the two friends now share a passion that is just as precious – their love of “footy”. Australian Rules Football, that is.
Kleanthis, a fanatical North Melbourne fan, introduced Yiannis to the magic of Australian Rules football, but instead of settling for the Kangaroos, Yiannis fell for Richmond, the yellow and black colours that the Tigers share with his other love, Aris Thessaloniki Football Club.
Ask him which sport he prefers, football or soccer, the answer comes without thinking: “I prefer the footy, for me it is much better. I mean, I will first watch footy rather than football (soccer). It is a unique sport, it requires stamina, strength, intelligence and strategy.
“What really moves me about the sport is that the fans of both teams can watch the game together, without any incidents. – not like it is here.”
Yiannis is such fanatical fan of the Tigers that last year he became a member of the club. He follows AFL on the internet and somehow he has become he has become the ambassador of Aussie Rules in Greece.
He keeps his friends there informed about the rules of the game and many of them, he says: “are beginning to get interested and are even following the games.”
It is something that he thinks is reasonable as footy is a sport that is easy to enjoy.
His wife thinks he is crazy because he gets up in the early hours on Sundays to watch footy games played on the other end of the world but, John says, she understands his passion and respects it.
His four-year old son, George, shares his father’s passion. Ask him which team he supports and he answers promptly: “Richmond” and he does not pause when others ask “what is that?”
He just waits impatiently for the time when he and his father will come to Australia to see their team in action for themselves.
“My dream is to go to the MCB and watch a Richmond game,” says Yiannis who had no intention of travelling to Australia until he fell for footy.
We hope with all our hearts that Yiannis realises his dream of going to the MCG with his good friend Kleanthis, just not when it’s the Tigers playing the Roos.