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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 8 September 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 2018 27 SPORT Abbas Saad’s plan to to win the Grand Final Ahead of the NPL NSW Grand Final against APIA Leichhardt, the Sydney Olympic coach says his big match experience as a player will help the club in its quest to win Sunday’s decider CON STAMOCOSTAS As a player, Abbas Saad is worshipped by Sydney Olympic fans. He is fondly remembered for his outstanding 1989-1990 season, which included 13 goals and a dramatic late winner against Melbourne Croatia in the semi-final that earnt Olympic a place in the decider. The former NSL powerhouse went on to win that Grand Final – which was the club's first ever title against Marconi 2-0, with Saad earning the Joe Marston medal for his man of the match performance. After finishing top of the NSW National Premier League this season, Sydney Olympic has an opportunity to do the league and Grand Final double this weekend. Saad believes his previous Grand Final experience as a player will be vital when he takes charge of Olympic for Sunday's decider against APIA at Leichhardt Oval, Sydney. "It's amazing," he says. "I've done everything with the club. I've won honours as a youth and as a first grade player. So, to come here and to do it as a manager is an amazing ride, it's a very proud moment. "Finals football is a different beast from league football. I've been there as a player, I've won finals and I've lost finals. I know exactly what it takes, it's really a mental factor. It's a confidence factor. I am confident and the team is confident but we are playing a very good team. Hopefully our team will turn up and play the best football on the day." Olympics' success this year is in sharp contrast to how the club began their NPL campaign. Just a week before the season kicked off, Spanish coach Gorka Etxeberria departed, leaving the club in crisis. But after only a short period of time, Olympic CEO John Boulos was confident that Saad was the right man for the job, after witnessing the new coach's approach. "I'm not surprised we've had this success," Boulos told Neos Kosmos. "The moment we saw them after the first few weeks of working together, we knew that it was going to be a very exciting year for the club. "We knew we had a very good squad that were all very hungry. We felt as the pre-season went on that what they were lacking was someone to put them in the right direction. "So certainly, Abbas's leadership proved that it as an obvious choice. Since the first week, he's been able to build the confidence in the team that we knew they had. He's been able to bring the best out of them and that's why we weren't surprised one bit with the success that this team's had." Olympic won the league on a dramatic final day of the season after beating former NSL rivals Sydney United. The win saw the club finish three points ahead of Sunday's Grand Final opponents APIA and Saab believes the secret to the club's success has been down to team harmony. "It's been about unity," he trated this deal that allows Schalke to help us develop our players and our coaches and it gives them the opportunity to experience their club. "This year we also sent a group of 12-year olds over that spent a week in and around their training base which is a football experience few will ever get." says. "We've all stuck together. They all believed in the project that we put ahead of them. Sometimes it's really hard to back up the younger guys and just believe in their ability and we have done that. We have been very consistent in our style of play and that gives you confidence. When you have been consistent and winning, it gives you a lot of confidence - that has probably been our best factor this year." Sydney Olympic has a squad full of players with first team A-League experience such as former Sydney FC trio Nikolas Tsattalios, Riley Woodcock and Hagi Gligor. But Abbas was keen to highlight that many players have made an impact this season, such as the club's 19 goal scoring hero. "Of course there is Alex Sanchez, our Spanish striker, he has been amazing," he says. "He's been fantastic in front of goals," he says. "Then there is Max Burgess in the creative department and If you look at the midfield, we also have Nicola Kulevski, who has been great with Zachary Mackenzie in the middle of the park. "At the back we've had a fantastic backline with Tom Whiteside and of course the old man between the sticks Paul Henderson has been absolutely superb and is probably the best goal keeper in the league even though he is 42 years old." Saad has been so impressed with his player's performances that he believes many of his players could make the step up to the A-League. "The NPL is not much dif- ferent from the A-League," he says. "There are some very good players on show. Technically they are all very, very good. The A-League teams just have to believe in them. These boys are 20 -23 years of age and they have their best football days ahead of them and if you put them in a professional environment where they are training twice a day, every day they can only get better. At the moment they are semi-professional and they are performing as well as the A-League boys." While Olympic's on field success has been significant, CEO John Boulos also made note of the club's relationship with the Bundesliga club Schalke which led to defender George Timotheou's recent move to Germany. "George came to us (after he was cut by Sydney FC) to become a better player and our staff assisted him," he says. "In that process we created an environment that allowed him to do that and then we were able to be supportive in him moving on. "Our relationship with Schalke is through our president Bill Pappas. He has orches- Ahead of the Sunday's blockbuster, Head Coach Saad made a call to arms for the Olympic faithful to turn out in huge numbers in the hope that it will inspire his team to victory. "We'd love to have that," he exclaimed passionately. "Let's not forget this is an old rivalry that goes back 30-40 years. We've always had great games from the former NSL days. Both Apia Leichhardt and Sydney Olympic are two huge clubs and two of the biggest clubs in Australia if you look at it historically and they do have very, very good followings. "So we'd love to see all the old Sydney Olympic supporters and the new Sydney Olympic supporters and probably supporters of football who love football. They should all come down and have a look at the NPL." PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS Sydney Olympic: Henderson, Whiteside, Mackenzie, Woodcock, An, Angel, D Burgess, M Burgess, Madonis, Pavicevic, Sanchez APIA Leichhardt Tigers: Necevski, Muata-Marlow, Millgate, Galimi, Ucchino, J Symons, S Symons, Parisi, Sekiya, Fondyke, Lundy Jason Madonis, ready to lead Olympic to battle GEORGE STOGIANNOU Sydney Olympic have contested an NPL Grand Final on one previous occasion in 2014, when they narrowly lost to Blacktown City. On the bench for Olympic that day was a promising 19 year old Jason Madonis, who in the four years since that final has not only established himself as a key player for Olympic, but on Sunday will lead Olympic out to battle in another NSW NPL Grand Final, against major rival Apia Leichhardt. "It's probably the right grand final, if you're going to talk on who have been the most consistent teams throughout the season," Madonis told Neos Kosmos. "There's no doubt they (APIA) are a very strong team with quality players all over the park. They've got a good coach, a good following. There's no doubt it's going to be an extremely tough game. Probably the hardest of the year. But in saying that, to be the best you have to beat the best. We want them to bring their best. We Sydney Olympic captain Jason Madonis will lead his team into this week’s Grand Final PHOTO: SYDNEY OLYMPIC FC want to have two full squads bringing their best. And we can settle who is the best of the best on Sunday." By winning both the Premiership and major semi final, Olympic have had a couple of weeks rest through the NSW NPL finals series. Madonis says coach Abbas Saad has pretty much a fully fit squad at his disposal bar one or two absences. Midfield stalwart Nicola Kuleski will miss the final through suspension, but on the plus side, midfielder Hagi Gligor is available after returning from long term injury. Madonis, who considers himself as part of the furniture at Olympic, is in his 10th year, having started there as a 13 year old, playing for the Under 14s. This year may prove to be his most memorable yet, particularly if his team Olympic can not only achieve the elusive NPL Premiership- Championship double, but also win a possible third trophy. A week after this Sunday's grand final, they host Perth SC in a National NPL elimination final. "The boys have been speaking about it," says the team's captain. "That's the goal, that's the aim. We're going to try and shoot for the stars and hopefully we can do the treble."
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