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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 April 2018
26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 APRIL 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Dean Bouzanis. PHOTO: THE ADVERTISER Terry Antonis. PHOTO: MELBOURNE VICTORY Bouzanis and Antonis buzzing ahead of A-League finals Ahead of this weekend’s elimination finals, Melbourne Victory midfielder Terry Antonis and Melbourne City goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis talk to Neos Kosmos about their A-League season CON STAMOCOSTAS The football careers of Greek Australians Terry Antonis and Dean Bouzanis have distinct parallels: both came through the junior ranks at Sydney Olympic and were considered stars of the future. When they were teenagers Bouzanis landed a youth team contract with English Premier League giant Liverpool, while Antonis planned to sign with Everton until FIFA regulations prevented the move. The pair also represented Australia at the U20 World Cup with Bouzanis playing in Egypt in 2009 and Antonis in Colombia in 2011. Antonis' club career has included two stints in Europe. Big things were expected for the midfielder after an outstanding 2014/15 season with Sydney FC saw him sign with Superleague Greece side PAOK. However soon after he arrived in Greece, the coach who signed him was sacked. A lack of regular football saw Antonis leave the club after two seasons. In recent times, the Greek League has been in turmoil with PAOK being docked three points and club owner Ivan Savvidis banned for three years after running onto the field with a holstered pistol on his hip. A number of violent incidents in the Superleague led to a two-week suspension of the league, but the 24-yearold says there is another side to Greek football. "At PAOK even though we had different coaches, inside the club everything was run professionally," Antonis told Neos Kosmos. "The owner ran the club [well] and I can't say anything wrong regarding that. But in the league generally, you see how it is with some players from other teams not getting paid. But with PAOK, I never had any problems. "You do hear and see some things, however playing football there in front of the PAOK Gate 4 fans; they are really passionate, it was just amazing to play there." After PAOK, Antonis spent six months with the Western Sydney Wanderers and his impressive performances subsequently earnt him a move to Dutch club VVVVenlo. But after not getting enough game time he moved to Melbourne Victory in January this year, and the skilful midfielder says returning home has paid off. "I'm happy to be with Victory and I'm enjoying my time here. It feels good to be back," says Antonis. "In Holland it was just about luck. The team was doing very well and I couldn't really say anything to them. I could've stayed longer but I just wanted to move on and play football and see what other doors opened. "I've settled well here at Victory and I've been playing. As long as I can help the team out and the boss is happy, I'll keep going." Victory finished fourth in the A-League this season pitting them against fifth-placed Adelaide United in the elimination final, and Antonis says he's looking forward to taking on the Reds on Sunday. "It's a massive game," he says. "We've played them before so we know how to play against them. Playing in the finals is always hard. So we know that it's a big game and we just need to keep going and perform as best as we can." Like Antonis, Bouzanis struggled for first team football at the start the season, but since the 27-year-old regained Melbourne City's number one goalkeeper's spot he hasn't looked back. "I missed the first eight rounds of the year and then ended up playing 19 rounds," he told Neos Kosmos. "I feel like I have come a long way and that I've progressed well. I was happy with my season. I felt more solid and I want to give a big thank you to my goalkeeping coach Jess Van Stratten; he's been fantastic for me and helping me progress to the next level. He's really taken me to new heights." After spending much of his early career at Liverpool, Bouzanis moved to Accrington Stanley in the EFL's League Two then climbed the ranks to Oldham Athletic in League One before returning to Australia. Now in his third season in the A-League, the former Australian youth international feels his game has matured, and on the back of consistent performances is prepared for another shot in Europe. "I think it's helped me gain confidence to hopefully go back overseas," says Bouzanis. "I've had a lot of games under my belt, I'm approaching the 50-game mark for Melbourne City in two-anda-half seasons which I am very proud of. It's a special club to be a part of and the more games that you play, and the more you participate, it just helps your confidence and actually believing in your ability and what you can do." On Friday night, Melbourne City faced Brisbane Roar with the winner progressing to the match that decides who will play in the Grand Final, and Bouzanis was confident City could go all the way. "We can win the title because of the quality of the club and the quality of the players that we have," he says. "We've always had a good attacking team since I've been here. We've played well and scored a lot of goals. This year we've also conceded a lot less as well. We're not here to make up the numbers; we have enough quality to win the league." Heading into Sunday's game against Adelaide, Antonis is also confident Melbourne Victory can do well in the finals series. "We just have to keep going and going. I believe we can only go up from here. I've played in a fair few matches this season and I'm feeling good again. The team believes we can go all the way and do it, why couldn't we?" Meanwhile, when the former teammates get the chance to come together on the field, Antonis says he always gets a thrill seeing Bouzanis' progression from youth to senior football. "I was with Dean at Sydney Olympic when I was really, really young. There are a lot of boys you grow up with playing football in your youth . . . it's always good to see someone that you were playing with when you were younger playing when they get older." While he is happy to reflect on his younger days, Antonis' future is never far from his thoughts, which includes getting a Socceroos recall. "I believe it will all come back into place, but at the moment I'm just concentrating on playing here with Victory first," he says. "Everyone wants to play for their national team and if I keep playing well things will happen. I've just got to keep playing well and things will go from there."
14 April 2018
28 April 2018