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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 26 March 2016
SPORT 24 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 26 MARCH 2016 Hillmen look to long-term success GEORGE STOGIANNOU When FC Clifton Hill plays the team to which it came runner-up last season, State League 1 SE champion Mornington, on 2 April, it will be a very different team to the one that produced an unbeaten 15-match run. Seven of the senior squad, along with coach George Karkaletsis, departed at the end of last season, forcing new coach Leigh Tsoumerkas to go on a recruitment drive. The first-time senior coach, together with his assistant Alex Faikos, has signed 10 players. "Those seven players (who departed) were required players at the club but they decided to go to NPL 2," Tsoumerkas told Neos Kosmos. They included Golden Boot winner Adam Wright, who followed Karkaletsis to NPL 2 club Brunswick City. "You can't stop or begrudge a player from wanting to play at a higher league. That's the honest truth. But it's given us the opportunity to regroup and for me to start fresh and bring in some fresh blood. I think we've done well. I think we've attracted some really good players to the club." Probably the most recognisable name among the new signings is ex-premier league midfielder Michael Catalano, whose experience and eye for goal has already proved to be an asset in each of the Hillmens' recent FFA Cup wins. Joining Catalano are two British imports, Welshman Chris Davies, who the coach describes as a very direct, attacking player, and newly-arrived Englishman Chris Freeman. Ex-Langwarrin defender Ben Cullen joins to add experience to the backline. Other key players the coach expects to play an important role this season include winger Daniel Thomas and young midfielder Peter Hiras, who were both at the club last season. The coach describes his squad as a good mixture of youth and experience. "I think we've got a squad there that we could build a foundation or platform for the next two or three years and hold the club in good stead, and then obviously aim for promotion when promotion becomes available in this league again. "I truly believe that because of the news that there wasn't going to be promotion, I have a feeling, even for us, we sort of had our eye on one or two players to really make the squad really strong. But with that comes the monetary issue. I honestly believe there are clubs out there that have put their cue in the rack for this year - and let's just sort of get through the year. And then reassess and really go for it next year. But I daresay Langwarrin, South Springvale and Mornington will be very strong." Although its form in preseason practice matches has been indifferent, FC Clifton Hill under Tsoumerkas' stewardship has won through to the last 32 teams in the state left in the FFA Cup competition. The coach says the two recent FFA Cup wins mean the team goes into the Easter break “with high confidence, and really looking forward to going into Rd 1 against the champions Mornington”. Greek Super League takes a break The international fixtures taking place over the next four days mean there will be no Greek Super League games this weekend. Action resumes next weekend with Round 28 of the competition. Olympiakos, which has already secured this year's championship, leads the competition on 73 points. AEK Athens is second on 53 points, Panathinaikos is third on 48 points, PAOK is fourth on 44 points and Panio- nios on 41 points, makes up the top five. The Greek national teams takes on Iceland in Athens on Tuesday. DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Kings’ Kosta Koufos back to Greek national team ‘I was very fortunate I signed the NBA contract early,’ he tells Neos Kosmos in New York NICK METALLINOS For Kosta Koufos, the stars aligned last summer to bring him back to the Greek national team for the first time since EuroBasket 2013. "I was very fortunate I signed the [NBA] contract early," Koufos told Neos Kosmos in New York. "I was healthy, my family was okay and it was all systems go." After signing his five-year, $33 million contract with the Sacramento Kings, Koufos was intent on helping Greece claim its first medal since a bronze at the 2009 Euro tournament. Unfortunately, the Greeks succumbed to a formidable Spanish side in the quarter-finals after having entered the game as favourites, and Koufos admitted that the loss was something of a missed opportunity for the Greeks to advance to the final of EuroBasket. "Definitely, [but] we can't make excuses," he said. "They played well, we played well, but it's part of the game. Calls don't go your way sometimes, sometimes you don't hit shots … and sometimes it's a little bit of luck as well. Unfortunately, it didn't go our way." For a country with a rich tradition of basketball such as Greece, it has underperformed in international competition since claiming silver at the 2006 FIBA World Championships. Since 2007, Greece has advanced beyond the quarterfinal stage at just two of their eight tournaments. Their best results have been bronze medals at EuroBasket in 2007 and 2009. The foundation has been set for the future, however. With a record number of Greeks playing in the NBA and other top leagues around the world, each tournament presents another chance for a medal for the national team, especially since the rapid ascent of the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, a guy who will lead the team for many years to come. "We have a real good team - especially this summer with Antetokounmpo, [Kostas] Papanikolaou, Nick Calathes, [Ioannis] Bourousis," maintained Koufos. "With so many players coming back, it's one of those things where, we have a pre-qualifier in Italy, we're going to do our best [because] it's our dream to play in the Olympics.” To qualify for the Rio Olympics, the Greeks will have to navigate themselves through a qualifying tournament in Torino, Italy, this July. Greece has been drawn into the easier group, alongside Iran and Mexico, in which the top two qualify for the semi-finals. The other group includes Italy, Croatia and Tunisia, with the two winners of the semifinals meeting in the final to decide who will get the lone spot in Rio. There's an old adage when it comes to international basketball that the teams with the most roster continuity win medals - we saw it with the Argentines and the Spaniards in the mid-to-late ‘00s. Now Koufos believes it's the Greek team's turn to start challenging for medals on a consistent basis. "For sure," he said matter-offactly. "It was our first year playing together like that. We have a lot of younger guys coming in, and now it's going to be pretty much the same guys coming in this summer and it's going to be easier for us to know what our strengths and weaknesses are, we can basically help each other out and improve and win." Before he can focus on international play, Koufos has the remainder of the NBA season to get through. His team has already been eliminated from playoff contention, but that hasn't changed the centre’s motivation to finish the season on a positive note. "It's a pride thing," he says. "You want to finish as strong as possible, on a high-note. We wanna be healthy at the same time [so] that's what we're doing. We're all still locked in, we're all practicing hard, we're focused. We're playing for ourselves [the team], and we're playing to win." FIFA suspect Costas Takkas extradited to the US After the arrest of a number of FIFA officials last week in Zurich, followed by Sepp Blatter's resignation, the remit of the FBI investigations into recent FIFA activity has widened. Costas Takkas, the former Cayman Islands Football Federation general secretary, was extradited from Zurich to the United States on Tuesday, Swiss authorities confirm. Two United States police officers took charge of the 57-year-old accountant and escorted him onto a flight bound for New York, according to AFP. Takkas, born in Cyprus and holding Greek and British nationalities, was one of six FIFA officials arrested in May Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter. AP PHOTO/ ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS. Costas Takkas accused of £2m bribe linked to US soccer rights contracts. 2015 at the request of American authorities. Swiss officials then rubber-stamped his extradition in October. After three appeals failed, the final one on 3 March, Tak- kas decided against a final appeal, Kathimerini reports. Of those arrested, only former Nicaraguan federation president Julio Rocha remains detained in Switzerland, but he has just 10 days remaining to appeal and stave off his own extradition. The six are part of a group of 39 officials and marketing executives accused by US prosecutors of soliciting and receiving tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in a case that has sparked an unprecedented crisis at FIFA.
19 March 2016
2 April 2016