Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 15 December 2018
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 15 DECEMBER 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Filopoulos calls for A-League foreign investment The CEO of Football Victoria speaks to Neos Kosmos about his role developing the sport and what he thinks needs to change for football to break free of the shackles that bind it and move into a new era ALEX ANYFANTIS Peter Filopoulos is the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Football Federation (better known as Football Victoria). He also holds the same position at the club currently at the top of the A-League ladder Perth Glory. However, these aren't his first experiences in an administrative role, as Filopoulos has been serving football (and sports in general) for more than two decades now, with a presence in several NPL clubs such as North Melbourne and South Melbourne, among others. As CEO of Football Victoria, his role is to deliver on the strategic priorities of the organisation, ensuring the clubs' capability to provide a better experience for the organisation's 70,000 registered participants. Football Victoria managed to raise over $100 million in funding from state and local governments in the last six months, which will be invested in community club facilities and infrastructure by way of artificial pitches, upgrades to floodlights and gender equity change rooms. "Our facilities strategy shows that to keep up with population growth and increases in participation, we will require 420 full size equivalent pitches by 2026 to be able to cope with demand. In 2018, 12,500 boys and girls of all abilities missed out on playing the sport of their choice because clubs were not able to cope as their facilities had reached saturation point," says Mr Filopoulos, whose combined experience makes him ideal to weigh in on the current state of of football in Australia and the changes ahead for the sport. What can be done to bring youngsters in Victoria closer to football? We must educate parents that high cost programs don't necessarily equate to great development programs. So often I hear disappointed parents and young players who pay large fees like in the A-League? The second division is something we need to aspire to, as we desperately need more teams in the ALeague and a second tier of full-time professional clubs. This will only provide more opportunities for players, coaches, referees, administrators and volunteers. However, we need to match this aspiration with capability. The second division needs to be well thought through in terms of the financial model given that it will comprise of existing NPL clubs. Peter Filopoulos believes football in Australia would highly benefit from foreign investments and a second (and even third) division. PHOTO: FOOTBALL VICTORIA at clubs but don't feel they receive the development they need. I often tell parents to look beyond the high cost programs for their children. Like all sports, parents and players need to find an environment which is suit- able for their circumstances. How, in your opinion, should the second division be formed? Should it include teams from the NPL or should entirely new teams be introduced Do you believe the ALeague can benefit from foreign investment? Yes I do. A-League clubs need private investment as their membership bases are not enough to sustain What is your opinion on the salary cap? The salary cap served its purpose in the infant years of the A-League, however I think this protection mechanism is no longer necessary. a professional club. We can only grow with private investment to be able to create the professional environment we need as a sport. Why do you believe there are not more Australians playing in highquality teams like back in the early '00s? The environment overseas has changed remarkably where there is an influx of players into the European leagues from all over the world. It's a different landscape (compared) to the 2000s, where Aussie players had more opportunities. How do you see football evolving 20 years from today? I see football in 20 years to have evolved in a way where our A-League is the second largest professional competition in Australia of all sports and that we have a second and maybe third tier and that we are competing in World Cups of all ages across men and women consistently. 11-year-old Greek signs with Spanish Primera club George Paterakis has shown his potential, and the right mindset, to acquire a contract during his trial with Villareal CF ALEX ANYFANTIS Always with a ball at his feet. That's the image Ms Paterakis has of her son as she explains to Neos Kosmos how the young boy was able to get a contract offer from Spanish club Villareal CF. George Paterakis took his first football steps at Bentleigh Greens, however for the past three years, he has been training with European clubs during the offseason to build up his skills. "George has been going for the last three years to Spain," his mother explains. "This year, we decided to take him up to Valencia and one of the clubs there was Villareal. He was only booked in there for training." What the family didn't know was that they were going there during scouting period. "Τhere were children from all around the world, from Asia, from America, from the Middle East," remembers the proud mother. "After the first day, they invited George back for the second day and a week later, we were still there, while all these other kids were coming and going. "So we thought 'something's going on here, why do they keep inviting us?' "Two weeks later there was only one other boy, I think he was from America but then, on the last day, he disappeared and [the club staff] took my husband around the boarding school, and all the physios and psychiatrists and then they offered us a contract." Ms Paterakis offered some valuable insight about the way football is handled in Spain, when it comes to the younger level of players: "Their philosophy is to de- velop players from a young age and to sell them off later on and that's pretty much how they make most of their money. That's their structure. So they put in a lot of money and a lot of effort developing the children." Ms Paterakis was par- ticularly impressed by the professionalism of the club, and the fact that the youths all trained together, ate together and spent a lot of time with one another, while the psychiatrists of the club help them adapt to their new environment. In short, as Ms Paterakis describes it, "Villareal is a village and this village operates around this one club." She seems more than convinced that her son will be left in capable hands as the facilities and staff are stateof-the-art. "We weren't expecting to see this sort of stuff but they put in a lot of money into developing these young children. And their philosophy is 'yeah sure, you can be a great player but your mindset needs to be right.' From what they were saying to us, children don't get kicked out because they're not great soccer players because they can make anyone a great soccer player. But firstly you need to be doing really well in school and second, you need to be the right man for the job. So I'm sure that just by talking to my son, they saw something there that they felt they could do something with." Young George is a holder of a Greek passport (he travels to Greece at least once a year, his mother tells us) and so will be joining the Spanish side as an EU citizen. But when it comes to the question of which national team he would potentially choose to represent, things are a little more complicated as the 11-year-old feels a sense of disappointment with the way things are handled right now in Australia: "He's not sure because he feels that Australia hasn't supported the soccer community. My son now, he has to pack up and leave his own country to become something in this sport and he's actually going to a country that's not that well off when compared to Australia. Australia has got the facilities and can make the sport great. So, in that sense, he feels a bit let down." While the contract offer might help ease things financially for the family, supporting George's career has not been easy. "There's been a lot of private training and now we've started with everything else, building the core and a lot of other skills. And a lot of training overseas, this was not the first time,” says Ms Paterakis. George Paterakis is excited to start his new career at the Villareal club. “So it cost a lot of money. Thankfully we're in a position where we're able to do all these things for him. Unfortunately, not everyone is and I think a lot of other children don't get the opportunities they deserve because it is very, very costly." George will finish up with the school year then head over to Madrid at the beginning of January in order to settle down at the Villareal academy where a brand new career awaits him. And hopefully the start of a great career.
08 December 2018
22 December 2018