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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 19 December 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 19 DECEMBER 2015 27 SPORT The 1974 title-winning South Melbourne team. Kokkinos is in the back row, second from the right. A-LEAGUE ROUND 10 FRI 11 DEC SAT 12 DEC SAT 12 DEC SAT 12 DEC SUN 13 DEC ROUND 11 FRI 18 DEC SAT 19 DEC SAT 19 DEC SAT 19 DEC TEAM ADELAIDE UNITED 2-1 SYDNEY FC BRISBANE ROAR 2-1 WELLINGTON PHOENIX WANDERERS 2-0 MELBOURNE VICTORY PERTH GLORY 2-1 CENTRAL COAST MARINERS NEWCASTLE JETS 0-4 MELBOURNE CITY FC NEWCASTLE JETS V ADELAIDE UNITED WELLINGTON PHOENIX V SYDNEY FC MELBOURNE CITY FC V MELBOURNE VICTORY PERTH GLORY V WANDERERS SUN 20 DEC CENTRAL COAST MARINERS V BRISBANE ROAR # Kokkinos heads the ball goalwards against arch-rival Fitzroy Alexander (now Heidelberg). PHOTO: ULYSSES KOKKINOS COLLECTION. born. I only play striker." Kokkinos was earning more in Australia and Hellas crowds were bigger than most Greek clubs. Kokkinos says: "The whole time my mind was with Hellas. So much love from one people. You are married to it." Ex-South Melbourne and Socceroos star Kimon Taliadoros said playing at Middle Park was like "riding a wave of emotion". Former player Mike Mandalis likened the crowd to a "volcanic eruption". Mandalis played with Kokkinos for two years. "He was a gifted freak who could dribble, was unbeatable in the air and an opportunist who would always add something original from his character to the game. He was one of the best to come to our country." Panathinaikos lost 2-0 to Ajax in the European Cup final and upon Kokkinos' return to Melbourne, negotiations with South Melbourne soured. His contract was split into payments. Kokkinos told them, "I'm not layby" and left to play for crosstown rival Greek side Fitzroy Alexander, stunning the Hellas fans, but he returned the next year, forgiven like the prodigal son. Kokkinos says: "I was a professional and had to be paid." In the days before player agents, he instinctively knew that footballers had to cash in their chips before they were taken away. Comedian Chris Rock once observed that a man is as faithful as his options and Ulysses had plenty. His love life was covered by the media and as early as 1968 leading writer Fred Villiers wrote in Soccer World that Kokkinos was "the new George Best", after the legendary Northern Irish football playboy. Football was on Channel Nine in Melbourne and Kokkinos was a crossover star, embracing the playboy persona, with one media stunt having him lying on a double bed in Middle Park flanked by supermodels. Kokkinos took a revolutionary path and made mainstream headlines for stating that he always had sex before a game and it had a positive effect. Today, Kok- kinos shrugs his shoulders and says: "A beautiful dinner, glass of wine and making love. I would be flying the next day. Television paid big money for me to say it!" Kokkinos returned to Greece to play with Division 1 team Panserraikos FC, scoring two goals in the final game to save them from relegation. He then took his show on the road, a travelling football troubadour playing for different clubs including Melbourne Juventus and Sydney Hakoah and another stint in Greece with Paniliakos FC. In 1974 Kokkinos returned to South Melbourne for the fourth time and won his first state title. South Melbourne Hellas historian John Kyrou's records show Kokkinos scored 33 goals in 75 games for the club. Kitsakis says Kokkinos played for 10 different clubs and received 14 transfer payments over a 16-year career. According to the statistician, John Punshon, Kokkinos played for Victoria five times, scoring twice including a spectacular scissor kick goal against Japanese touring side Toyo Kogyo. In an interview in the Athletic Echo, Victorian coach Tony Boggi said: "Kokkinos will play a magical 20 minutes and win the game. That's why I select him." All through lunch, a procession of Greeks of all ages approach Kokkinos to pay their respects. Mature women giggle and point as they walk past. Love is in the air as old men rise up as Ulysses greets them, hands waving with joy punctuated by long pauses - a silent freemasonry of things shared. Kokkinos gets out of his seat to hug Philip Diamataris, an FFA match commissioner who offers his thoughts. "Ulysses was the first crossover star that brought the ethnic silos together. I remember going to my Uncle Jim's, who was a South Melbourne committee member, and they were all begging Ulysses not to leave. People were crying." An old, white-haired man shuffles up to our table, 79-year-old Anastasios Agapitos, the founding president of the South Melbourne fan club the bo in 1959. "Everybody loved him," he says of Kokkinos. "Vision, dribbler, playmaker, playboy." Kokkinos's flashy style stood out in Victorian football, an orchid in a bed of lettuce. By 1978 the orchid had wilted. His skills were in decline and the cone of opportunity began to narrow. With no superannuation, player welfare managers or a trade to fall back on, Kokkinos had limited options. Too proud to ask for help, he became involved in a blackmail scandal and was sentenced to 19 months in Pentridge jail. An ex-Melbourne-Slavia goalkeeper was the warden and Kokkinos did soft time, released after six months. Kokkinos tried for a fresh start in Perth as captain-coach for Floreat Athena. Now married, his trip west set him on a new damning course. To drinking, gambling and womanising he added a fourth vice - drugs. Every Eden has its snake and through cocaine Kokkinos found a replacement for the adrenaline of the crowd. He went into business and had a son but his drug use grew into an addiction, leading to divorce and depression. He moved to Queensland but trouble followed him and he served two more jail terms in Melbourne for cocaine offences. Kokkinos finally had his dark night of the soul when his father visited him in jail and broke down crying. Kokkinos had never seen his father shed a tear and will never forget the moment. "It struck me cold and broke my heart - I had dishonoured my family name. My soccer success meant nothing." After being released from prison he found peace and reconciled with his father, who, having forgiven his son, returned to Greece and passed away in 2001. Kitsakis explains the fall. "His whole career he talked and laughed with everybody," he says. The list included kids, homeless drunks, politicians and women, who Kitsakis says would do everything for him. Kokkinos repaid them all with beautiful football but noth- ing could prepare him for fame. Kitsakis says his house is always open to him. "Drugs destroyed him as a human but like a humble, fallen angel you can't help but love him." Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates argued that justice was the greatest good and a punished criminal is happier than an unpunished one. Kokkinos agrees: "I've learnt that if you do the crime you have to do the time. Don't blame anybody except yourself." When asked if he would do things differently Kokkinos says, "I really don't know to tell you the truth. If given the same things it could be the same. Playing, eating, drinking, talking, fucking - with me everything extreme. God gave me a plate with everything in it - no regrets, take the good and bad." Kokkinos fights his demons daily but spends a lot of time with a network of former players and "my two beautiful boys", the only family he has left. He attends most South Melbourne home games and is a club icon, inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2009. He enjoys interacting with fans and old friends: "I was honoured to play with great players and receive incredible love from the fans," he says. "They both made me who I am." Where do old playboy footballers end up? In Kokkinos' case, the quiet beach town of Mordialloc, south of Melbourne. His life is now predictable - he eats well, exercises often and has transitioned from playboy to pensioner. The legacy of Kokkinos is more emotional than logical - a flawed genius who lived the beautiful game and made people happy. He had the talent and personality, South Melbourne Hellas provided the soil and water. As we leave the restaurant he pauses for a final word: "My father told me 'just be in one place'. But I wanted to be everywhere. I didn't listen but now I am settled and every day is a gift. It doesn't matter who loves me or not, I love them." * With special thanks to Peter Kalliakoudis. * This story was first published in The Guardian. P W D L F A +/- PTS 1 WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS FC 10 7 1 2 16 8 08 22 2 BRISBANE ROAR FC 3 MELBOURNE CITY FC 4 MELBOURNE VICTORY 5 SYDNEY FC 6 WELLINGTON PHOENIX 7 NEWCASTLE JETS 8 PERTH GLORY 9 ADELAIDE UNITED GREEK SUPER LEAGUE SUN 20/12/15 MON 21/12/15 10 5 3 2 16 10 06 18 10 5 2 3 27 16 11 17 10 5 1 4 14 12 02 16 10 4 4 2 10 8 02 16 10 4 2 4 15 15 00 14 10 3 3 4 9 13 -04 12 10 3 1 6 10 15 -05 10 10 2 3 5 10 18 -08 09 10 CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 10 1 2 7 11 23 -12 05 ATROMITOS 00 : 00 PANIONIOS VERIA 02 : 15 ASTERAS TRIPOLIS KALLONI 04 : 30 OLYMPIAKOS PIRAEUS PAOK 00 : 00 PLATANIAS PAS GIANNINA 02 : 15 XANTHI PANAITOLIKOS 02 : 15 IRAKLIS TUE 22/12/15 SUN 03/01/16 PANTHRAKIKOS 04 : 30 PANATHINAIKOS AEK ATHENS 04 : 30 LEVADIAKOS PAS GIANNINA - VERIA ASTERAS TRIPOLIS XANTHI - PANTHRAKIKOS - PAOK PANATHINAIKOS - PANAITOLIKOS PLATANIAS - AEK ATHENS IRAKLIS - KALLONI SUN 10/01/16 SUN 10/01/16 # TEAM 1 OLYMPIAKOS PIRAEUS 2 AEK ATHENS 3 PANATHINAIKOS 4 PAOK 5 PANIONIOS 6 ASTERAS TRIPOLIS 7 LEVADIAKOS 8 PLATANIAS 9 IRAKLIS 10 PAS GIANNINA 11 XANTHI 12 VERIA 13 ATROMITOS 14 PANAITOLIKOS 15 PANTHRAKIKOS 16 KALLONI LEVADIAKOS - ATROMITOS PANIONIOS - OLYMPIAKOS PIRAEUS VERIA - PANTHRAKIKOS PAOK - PAS GIANNINA MP W D L F A D P 14 14 0 0 39 8 +31 42 14 8 3 3 23 12 +11 27 14 9 1 4 20 11 +9 25 14 6 5 3 23 18 +5 23 14 7 2 5 19 14 +5 23 14 6 3 5 16 17 -1 21 14 5 4 5 12 15 -3 19 14 5 3 6 16 16 +0 18 14 4 6 4 13 16 -3 18 14 5 2 7 17 23 -6 17 14 3 7 4 12 13 -1 16 14 3 6 5 9 13 -4 15 14 4 1 9 10 16 -6 13 14 3 4 7 14 25 -11 13 14 1 5 8 11 25 -14 8 14 1 4 9 11 23 -12 7 Euro giants to play in Melbourne Euro giants Juventus and Tottenham will headline a revamped International Champions Cup tournament in Melbourne next July, that will also include Melbourne Victory. The local powerhouse will be the first ALeague side to feature and will kick-off the event against Juventus at the MCG on July 23. The other change will be the addition of a fourth side, to be confirmed in February. “The best of the best will be coming down here again and we're really delighted to have convinced them to come to Melbourne,” said tournament organiser Bart Campbell, chairman of TLA Worldwide.
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