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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 08 December 2018
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 8 DECEMBER 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Andrew Paraskevas won’t give up The Greek Australian footballer talks about the challenges involved in navigating both the ups and downs of European football CON STAMOCOSTAS Anything can happen! PHOTO: SOUTH MELBOURNE FC - IN THE A-LEAGUE FACEBOOK GROUP (DIGITALLY MANIPULATED) Cristiano Ronaldo in the A-League? In a (mostly humorous) post on their Facebook page, the South Melbourne fan club put up a photoshopped image of the international star with the club’s jersey Could we see Cristiano Ronaldo in Melbourne? If the post made by the South Melbourne FC - In The A-League group is to be taken seriously, then it could soon happen! However, the photoshopped image should be taken with a grain of salt as it was mostly intended for humorous purposes. The image suggests that the four times Ballon d'Or winner is just "one of the players under consideration" by the club's management should they be successful in their A-League participation bid, going on to ask the fans of their team which player they would want to see in the blue and white. The decision regarding the two teams participating in the A-League expanded league will become known on 12 December. Former Heidelberg junior Andrew Paraskevas has been with top flight Czech Republic club Banik Ostrava for the past two seasons. But prior to establishing himself in the youth team squad, the young defender's journey to European football's elite proved to be anything but smooth. Paraskevas' European sojourn first began when he was invited by scouts to spend some time with Cyprus first division giants APOEL in January last year. "During my three week trial I was fortunate enough to play in some practice matches against Russian first division clubs FC Spartak Moscow, FC Rubin Kazan, FC Lokomotiv Moscow and Swiss giants BSC Young Boys," he revealed to Neos Kosmos. After impressing APOEL's youth coach, Paraskevas was invited to return to the powerhouse club in June, but as the youngster explained, that dream opportunity turned into a nightmare. "Unfortunately, 10 days be- fore I flew back to Cyprus for the new season, I received a call explaining that the APOEL youth coach who was going to sign me got sacked, so I had to find a new club," Paraskevas explained. The news rocked Paraskevas but his luck changed when the departed APOEL coach offered the youngster a first team spot at his new club Ethnikos Latsia FC. "During my seven months in Cyprus I played regularly and I scored one goal but the club faced some financial difficulties and my living situations weren't the best," he says. "So I had to leave the club. But through the help of my old coach Peter Kratky [current coach of Melbourne City U-20] I had a three week trial at Banik Ostrava who are a very big club in the Czech Republic. After three training sessions and a practice match, the coach told me he had seen enough and wanted me to sign a contract. So I decided to move on to bigger and better things." Despite his time in Cyprus not turning out as planned, Paraskevas still looks back on his time playing on the Mediterranean island with pride. "My most memorable moment was playing in front of my dad, younger brother and pappou when they came to visit me," he says. "I also got to play against teams from all over the world and was able to travel to different countries." Paraskevas was born and raised in Melbourne. His mother has Italian background while his father's parents migrated to Australia in the 1950's from Kozani, Greece. Growing up he first played youth football with Banyule City SC but when he began playing with Greek clubs in the Victorian Premier League competition his career began to gather momentum. "I played a few years at Heidelberg United where I was part of the first team squad when I was just 17," he says. "But the most important club for me was Northcote City. I played a few years in the juniors, but it was with the help and belief of Alex Gymnopoulos who gave me the opportunity to play in his U-20s team as a 15-year-old, winning the Best and Fairest in that year. Later that same season I made my senior debut for Northcote against South Melbourne, only two weeks after my 16th birthday." After leaving Heidelberg, Paraskevas spent time trialling with Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory. However with opportunities in the ALeague limited, the youngster travelled abroad and revealed his delight that he has found a stable club in the Czech first division. "I'm living in an apartment on my own in Ostrava close to our home stadium, so I have become more independent and mature," Paraskevas says. "Of course there are days where I miss my family and friends, but I know I am in Europe for a reason. I want to work hard so I can become a professional footballer. I owe my parents so much for what they did for me growing up, and it is my goal to one day be able to call my father and tell him that he can stop working because I finally signed my big professional contract." While it's been a series of ups and downs, the young defender says his game has improved since his move to Europe. "The standard of football is so much higher than what I experienced in Australia," he says. "I was surprised with how technical, fast and physical it is here. Being a very physical player myself I was used to the physicality, but I was surprised to see that some tackles that would be yellow cards in Australia are simply waved on as play on. Coaches want the game to be fast, free flowing, and to never give the ball away." Even though he is with Kekeris waiting for his chance The central Coast Mariners winger is hoping to break into the first team this season GEORGE STOGIANNOU Last A-League season, Melbourne clubs gave two skilled young wingers from the class of '99 the chance to burst onto the scene and launch themselves into professional careers in Europe. Melbourne Victory gave Christian Theoharous game time and he impressed enough to earn a contract in the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach, whilst everyone knows what Daniel Arzani was able to do after Melbourne City gave him his chance. Now another winger from the class of '99 is waiting in the wings, hoping for his break onto the A-League stage, after experiencing a brief taste at the tail end of last season. Nineteen-yearold speedster Peter Kekeris is currently part of the Central Coast Mariners' senior squad having signed a scholarship contract in the pre-season. A former Sydney Olympic junior, Kekeris came up the ranks through the FNSW NTC, progressing to the Canberra AIS where amongst his teammates was Daniel Arzani. He then moved to the Mariners youth academy in 2016 (after a brief stint at the Western Sydney Wanderers academy) where he remains a regular member of the Mariners' youth team. He has also been capped at national level appearing seven times for Australia’s U-17's. In April this year, Kekeris the raw ingredients to make a footballer. He has the ability in one on one situations and speed to burn. was given his first taste of senior A-League football, coming on as a late sub against Melbourne City. After training with the senior squad in pre-season, new Mariners' senior coach Mike Mulvey obviously liked what he saw of Kekeris and the youngster was offered his first professional contract. At the time of signing, Mulvey said of Kekeris: "Peter has all "He has trained with the A-League squad for a number of weeks and has earned this contract through hard work and his ability to listen and evolve his game; and he knows this is just the start." In a recent interview with the WorldGame.com, Kekeris said of his experience this season as part of the Mariners' first team squad: "Mike has shown faith in me. As soon as he came in, I was training with the first-team, it was about seeing if I deserved a professional contract. "I came in and after four weeks, five weeks, Mike signed me and said he has big plans for me. He really backs my style of play and what I see on the pitch and what I do. "I've been loving every minute of this season . Obviously the results haven't gone our way, but we're just working hard in training. Trying to make things right and hopefully we can start getting results. "The coaching staff has spoken to me and just want me to keep improving physically. They told me I'm young, I need to stay patient. "When my chance comes they believe that I will be ready and I will take it. I'm playing 90 minutes every week with the National Youth league boys and I'm waiting for my chance." Banik's youth team at the moment, Paraskevas revealed the club has earmarked him as a future member of the first team squad. "The club's short term goals for me are to improve the technical side of my game, and understand their playing style more," he says. "Long term they are looking for young boys to represent the senior team. I have scored two goals and a number of assists between my two seasons here. I have also had the opportunity to train and play with first team players when they come to the U-21s. I've learnt so much from them by seeing how hard they work." Looking to longer term aspirations Paraskevas revealed that he would be honoured to represent the country of his father's heritage. "Of course a big goal of mine is to play national team football and play in a World Cup," he says. "I hold both an Australian and Greek passport which gives me the chance to represent either. Football to the Greek people is more than just a game, it's their life. And I view football in that way also. The thought of representing Greece is a real motivational factor. I would love to wear the Greek colours and represent the Greek people with passion and pride. But first I want to become the best footballer I can be so that one day I can join a big club and play professional football."
01 December 2018
15 December 2018