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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 26 September 2015
SPORT 30 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Golden reward for Port Melbourne’s Ibrahim Port’s first gold medal win in 20 years GEORGE STOGIANNOU For Port Melbourne Sharks winger Kamal Ibrahim, all the hard work he put in during pre-season and outside regular training hours has paid off in gold. At last Friday night's FFV medal count, Ibrahim led the count ahead of players of the calibre of Hume's Nick Hegarty and Pascoe Vale's Davey Van't Schip, taking out the Gold Medal for best NPL player of 2015. Surprised by the result, he told Neos Kosmos, "I'm very honoured to win the award. There were a lot of good players who could have won it. My teammates were very supportive; I couldn't have done it without them." Three years ago, the 23-yearold was on the books at Melbourne Heart but he left after an injury-plagued season restricted him to less than a handful of appearances. "Since then it's been really hard to cope with not being able to get back into a professional set-up. We only train three times a week in this league so I had to put in extra hours trying to get my body right in the gym and outside as well. "Winning has been good for me because I knew the hard work I put in wasn't for nothing. Good motivation for me to even keep pushing for more." Ethiopian-born Ibrahim first learnt his football skills in the neighbourhoods of Addis Ababa, where his biggest idol was his older brother, who played for the Ethiopian national team. The unrest and conflict of a civil war forced his family to migrate to Australia as refugees in 2003. They ended up living in Port Melbourne, which saw the youngster join Port as a junior where his talents were soon recognised, progressing to the VIS and AIS, appearing for the Joeys in 17 matches. "They looked after me very well since I came to Australia as a refugee,” he says of Port Melbourne. “They looked after me with payments, with the fees when I couldn't afford them, with soccer boots as well." He had a taste of full-time professional football at ALeague club Melbourne City (then Heart), but on release had short stints at South Melbourne and Heidelberg United "because Port weren't in the Premier League at the time". When Port won promotion back into the top tier, Ibrahim says "it was kind of the right thing for me to do, to go back to Port". And that's where he's been for the last three seasons. His career ambition is to "get back into the professional setup again”, whether that's in Australia or overseas. “Somewhere where I can earn a living through football. Hopefully winning this medal can help me a little bit. If I can continue this form, hopefully there can be an opening." Ibrahim hopes that opening might lead to an A-League trial. Other winners at last Friday night's FFV medal awards included: South Melbourne winger Nick Epifano, who picked up the NPL Players' Player of the year award. South Melbourne striker Milos Lujic, who won the NPL Golden Boot award for a remarkable third year in a row. Pascoe Vale coach Vitale Ferrante, who won the NPL coach of the year award. Boroondara Eagles midfielder Amy Jackson, who won the WPL Gold Medal award for best player. Port Melbourne Sharks player Kamal Ibrahim wins gold in style. PHOTO: FACEBOOK. Northcote promotes Gymnopoulos to top post Keeping it in the family GEORGE STOGIANNOU NPL club Northcote City has rewarded a loyal son, announcing the appointment of Alex Gymnopoulos to the senior coaching position. The long time youth coach and former player was seen as the ideal candidate, following the resignation of coach Goran Lozanovski at the end of the 2015 season. Northcote City vice president and football operations manager Peter Kotsiris says of the appointment: "We felt that the time had come for Alex to step up, but more particularly, we needed to appoint a coach who understood the club's culture and direction the club wanted to head in. That's why even the other candidates interviewed were Northcote-related people that were in- Since retiring he has served the club in various coaching roles over the last 10 years, including stints as assistant senior coach to Michael Michalakopoulos in 2004 and his good mate Peter ‘Gus’ Tsolakis from 2008. For the last five years, Gymnopoulos has been in charge of the Under 20s youth team, leading them to the title in 2013 and finishing runner up in 2014 and 2015. The new man in charge at John Cain Reserve. volved with the club in the past. "At the end of the day, we thought Alex was the best fit given that a lot of the players he's coached in the under 20s have progressed into the senior ranks." There can be little doubt that Gymnopoulos has a thorough understanding of the club's history and culture. The 48-year-old's time at Northcote stretches back 30 years to the ‘80s, when he played for the club under PHOTO: FACEBOOK. his favourite coach, former South Melbourne legend Jim Pyrgolios. He played through to the early 2000s, when current Heidelberg coach and cousin George Katsakis was at the helm. Regarding his appointment, Gymnopoulos told Neos Kosmos he was “honoured and humbled by Northcote offering me the senior gig”. “Northcote's vision has always been about trying to produce your own players and give those kids from the Under 20s an opportunity to play senior football." Gymnopoulos is aware of the challenges the senior coaching job brings. "Being a youth team coach, it's just about producing players and developing players, whereas in senior football, it's all about performance and winning points. It's cut throat. There's a lot more pressure, driven by results." Gymnopoulos says he has played under and learnt from a number of coaches from the local game including the aforementioned Pyrgolios. He says playing under Chris Taylor at Green Gully was a pleasure. As a youth player at Heidelberg he played under coach Brian Garvey alongside team mates who went on to coach at Premier League level, including the championship winning Bentleigh Greens, coaching team of John Anastasiadis and John Gabrilelson, as well as Peter Tsolakis. He credits Tsolakis and Michalakopoulos, as well as his cousin George Katsakis, as helping him to learn the skill of coaching over the last ten years.
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