When I call Haris Stamboulidis he’s right in the middle of getting his Greek passport paperwork done. As a proud Greek Australian teenager and aspiring professional football player, he’s looking to keep all options open but at the moment his heart is still firmly planted at home.
Haris has been a Greek Australian club hit. Starting early on at Heidelberg United, then moving to Essendon Royals, Northcote City and then coming back to United, his career has been embedded in the grassroots Greek and Victorian football community.
Finishing the year playing in the Heidelberg United NPL seniors team and helping the club reach third on the ladder, Haris unbecomingly put himself in the spotlight.
It wasn’t long until the A-League came sniffing.
Now signed to Melbourne City’s youth team, Haris is looking at a strong trajectory.
He’s already been shortlisted as one of the 18 youngsters set to travel to the School Sports Australian national team tour of the UK and Ireland.
Representing the nation, Haris will be going up against the world’s best youth players signed to some of the most prestigious European and English clubs.
He knows it will be an uphill battle but is quietly confident that the team selected is up for the task.
“I’m definitely excited, it’ll be a great experience to gauge where we are as footballers,” he tells Neos Kosmos.
“A few players like Raheem Sterling who have played in this competition have gone on to become top class footballers.”
Being chosen to represent the country wasn’t an easy task. He had to fend off other hopefuls in a tournament in August playing five games in six days to get the nod.
He will be joining the other 18 in early January for a camp in Sydney before they fly out on January 17.
He’s banking on an underdog tag to motivate the boys and give them a competitive edge.
“The Aussie spirit is something we can hold onto and get inspired by. I definitely think we can do well in the UK,” he says.
His love of football is down to his father’s own obsession. A semi-professional player himself at Northcote City, Greg Stamboulidis noticed a fire in his son early on that he could see needed to be nurtured.
“I saw that his focus and dedication was quite extraordinary,” he tells Neos Kosmos.
“We used to practice travelling with the ball with the left foot. I used to say we’ll do 50 reps and that’s enough, but he’d say ‘no lets do another 10’. Ten became another 50 because he insisted.”
“When I saw that, I said this kid might go further.”
Further is an understatement, as he prepares to take his shot internationally and show his worth at Melbourne City.
Having to take some time off at the start of the season thanks to his year 12 exams, Haris still hasn’t been able to start for the team but is hopeful he’ll become a starting regular in the near future.
Coach Joe Palatides has faith in him and Haris is very much a fan of his mentor.
“I’m very thankful for Joe Palatides, for his support and as well as the whole team at Melbourne city, they’ve helped me,” he says.
“It’s a very professional environment, all credit goes to Joe Palatides and all the players involved.”
As he starts his journey with City, he’s not shy at revealing what he’d like to achieve in the next couple of years.
“Playing in a professional environment is one of my short-term goals,” he says.
Whether that will still be at Melbourne City is still being debated.
Like most football players the allure of playing for the best is still a dream.
Travelling to Greece recently Haris was able to see first-hand how some of the world’s best train and perform.
“It’s definitely a world class standard, we have some superstars playing in Greece, it’s unbelievable the talent, and the quality of football is unbelievable,” he says.
He was fortunate enough to attend a PAOK Panathinaikos match while in Greece, but he’s not so happy that his favourite team AEK is still languishing in the third league after being booted out of the Super League.
Asking him if he was to be called up by both Australia or Greece who he would pick, he’s rightfully torn.
“I guess whoever gives me the opportunity first,” he says.
“It would be an honour to represent any national team.”
Back home, Haris is hoping to make a lasting impression on Palatides to get as much game time as possible before the big January trip.
Expect to see the Stamboulidis name become a Melbourne City staple in a couple of months.