Bankstown Berries may be the lowest-ranked club left in the FFA Cup but their inspirational player and coach Perry Moustakas says the club heads into Tuesday night’s game against Sydney FC with no fear.
The Berries play in the NSW National Premier League 2 competition and their journey to the FFA Cup Round of 16 has included two giant killing feats that knocked out Sydney Olympic and South Australia’s Metro Stars.
However, defeating Sydney FC – the current A-League champions will go down as one of the Berries biggest wins in their history and will no doubt be the biggest FFA Cup boil over to date.
It would rival biblical David’s victory over Goliath, and being Australia’s oldest football club after being formed in 1886 that wasn’t that long ago.
The Berries were formerly known as Canterbury Marrickville Olympic and while they had a short stint in the NSL in the 80s the club haven’t graced the national stage for many years.
So, their recent FFA Cup exploits have allowed a new generation to learn about the club’s famous history. Several former Socceroos have worn the famous blue and yellow jersey including Ron Corry, Charlie Yankos, Peter Katholos, John Watkiss, Zlatko Arambasic, Graham Arnold, the late, great,
Johnny Warren and Leopold Baumgartner.
But today the Berries have their own modern-day cult hero in player-coach Perry Moustakas. Normally a defender by trade, the 34-year-old produced a
little piece of his own magic while playing in midfield in Bankstown’s FFA Cup Round of 32 fixture.
With the Berries ahead of the Metro Stars 1-0, Moustakas received the ball just outside their opponent’s half. With one touch he evaded one defender, then weaved past another and found himself inside the box. With the composure of a striker he expertly placed the ball passed the goal keeper’s right hand and his strike proved to be the game’s winning goal, in a 2-1 upset victory.
Looking ahead to the club’s biggest fixture in recent history the former Cypriot youth international says the Berries aren’t scared of taking on Sydney FC.
“I don’t believe that fear is a factor here, I really don’t,” he tells Neos Kosmos confidently.
“It’s a cup game and the longer the score is 0-0, the fear factor will go the other way. No-one is expecting it to go that way.
“We’re definitely not walking into the game saying, ‘we’re going to lose and we’re just going to give the game to them’. We’re definitely mixing it with the best. We saw the stats last year that Sydney broke all those A-League records. They’re arguably one of the best teams to ever come out of Australia. But in saying that, football is a funny game and we’ve seen a lot of upsets over the years. We’re just going to try and make it as hard as we can for them.
“It’s a great time for the club and people are getting behind our story – the lowest-ranked team against the highest-ranked team. I’m just really excited for my players to be part of the biggest game in their lives.”
Former Socceroo Peter Katholos spent his formative years at the Berries and as a teenager he was asked to mark one of the 1974 World Cup Socceroos.
“I had to play against Atti Abonyi, the famous Atti Abonyi,” he recalled.
“It was my debut and it was against Sydney Croatia at Garside Park in the Ampol Cup. The stadium was packed. There were 10,000 people there, it was packed to the rafters. They were fantastic crowds and fantastic memories back then.
“I started there as a 16-year-old in around 1978 and spent two years at one of the most famous clubs in Australia. It was called Canterbury Marrickville Olympic back then. The football was of very good quality. I was just starting my career. It was a great grounding for me and I am glad that I was given the opportunity back in the day by the great Walter Tomandl.”
Another famous former alumnus of the Berries is Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold and Moustakas is relishing the chance to come up against the former Socceroo boss.
“It’s such a beautiful thing, football sometimes,” he says.
“Graham Arnold’s first professional game was with Canterbury Marrickville/Bankstown Berries and for us to be where we are and getting Graham back to where it all started – you couldn’t write it better yourself. It’s exciting times.
“We want all the ex-players who have left their mark on the Berries to know they’re always welcome down at the club. They’re always going to have a special place at the club. Throughout the years many ex-players have got in touch with me and as soon as the draw came out they sent me messages. They absolutely love the club and to see the club doing so well in the FFA Cup, they’re really happy and over the moon about it.”
During the NPL 2 season the Berries were on the brink of being relegated and club chairman Theo Mitrothonasis lauded Moustakas’ work in the league and cup and the vision he has for its future.
“Perry has a lot of experience playing in Europe so we have devised a three-year plan,” he revealed.
“He knows a lot of good young players because he lives and breathes football 24 hours, seven days a week and he’s given us a new lease of life at the club.
“Just being in the Round of 16 in the FFA Cup, beating Sydney Olympic, beating the Metro Stars it’s a massive achievement. In preparation for the Sydney FC game we have been invited to play against the Western Sydney Wanderers in a friendly match and that is something the club hasn’t had in a while. So, it’s exciting times for the club and playing Sydney FC on an artificial pitch it’s 11 vs 11 and anything is possible, so we’ve got a chance.”
Despite being forced to move their Round of 16 clash to Sydney United’s Edensor Park away from their base in Bankstown, Moustakas still hopes a big crowd will be there to cheer on the underdogs.
“I’m hoping we get a good turnout,” he says.
“This game is for the people at the club that have been there for so long, the ones that never get a mention. The ones that are there early in the morning putting the goals up and getting everything ready for the kids. For the pure fans who love the club. For them to experience the club being at this stage is a great feeling. Hopefully we can get a good crowd there and make it a night that people can talk about for years to come.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re definitely going to try and make it a night to remember. For me, I want us to go out there and make it a night that in 20 years’ time you can tell your kids and your grandkids about. I want us to try and create some great memories for ourselves. It’s all we can really do, so, we’ll give it our best and work as a team and hopefully we can take it to them.”