Thursday, April 19, 2012

Generation Next: Costa Andricopoulos

Here is the raw Q & A I did with Aussie youngster Costa Andricopoulos who plays in Cyprus for Anorthosis Famagusta.
In 2009 Anorthosis Famagusta, made the groups stages of the Champions League and at the time that was the greatest achievement in Cypriot football.
Now another Cypriot club Apoel  Nicosia has gone much further having made it out of the group stages then going on further and beating French team Olympique Lyonnais for the right to face Real Madrid in the quarter’s finals.

Australia too has a football connection with Cyprus. Former Socceroo great Paul Okon spent the latter stages of his career at Apoel and recently young Aussie Costa Andricopoulos a former Apoel player is currently playing with Anorthosis Famagusta.
I spent some time with Costa to find out about football and life in Cyprus.  

1) Can you give us a brief synopsis of your time in Cyprus Like opportunities you have had with Anorthosis playing wise and experiences that you have had living in Portugal that changed you?

 During my time with Anorthosis I have been very fortunate to get a few games with the 1st grade squad. I played a full game in a Cyprus cup charity match as well as two other pre-season matches against 1st division teams. Also playing friendly matches against teams like Lokomotive Moscow reserves and getting an assist, Dynamo Kiev reserves, FC Tuggen (Switzerland) 1st grade and FC Luch Energia Vladivostok (Russia) 1st grade has also been a great experience to play against these high profile clubs.

I’ve been in Cyprus nearly 1.5 years now and have adapted well to the European way of life which is very different to back home. Living in Cyprus has made more independent, focused and more determined to achieve my goals. Living by myself and having to fend for myself in another country has been a great experience. Doing things on my own has really opened my eyes.
I don’t have the luxury of my mum to do the chores around the apartment (laughs), so I’m the one that has to do all the cleaning, washing, cooking and shopping which has made me grow up quickly and be more independent.

2) Can you give us some background on yourself like how you got into football, where you played local football in Australia?
 Growing up I was always in the backyard and at the park kicking a football around with my dad, who also played in the NSL in the 1980's. My dad was the one who first introduced me to football, ever since I was a young kid he used to always take me to watch games, also showing me videos and pictures of football. He is the one that made me start playing football and the one I go to anytime for advice. I started playing local park football at the age of seven for Kingsgrove all Stars.

I played local association football up until the age of 10 until Division 1; Super youth and Premier Youth league was introduced. My junior years were with ST George F.C from u13's up until u16's in the NSW Premier Youth League. U18's and u20's were with Apia Leichhardt Tigers F.C were we won the u18's NSW Premier Youth League final and then I signed for West Sydney Berries u20's were I made my 1st grade debut.

3) How did the move to Anorthosis come about?

 The previous season, I signed for Apoel F.C reserves (1st div) were my current coach at Anorthosis reserves had the under 17's at Apoel. That's how it came about. Towards the end of my season at Apoel I got loaned out to their feeder team, Ethnikos Latsion F.C 1st grade for two months along with another player from my team for 1st grade experience.

When the season finished with Ethnikos I went for a three week trial at Doxa Katokopias 1st grade squad (1st div team at the time). I had a very good three week trial, which included friendly matches and team training and the coach was impressed with me and wanted to sign me for this season (2011-12').

I couldn’t sign a contract at that time as he wasn’t officially re-signed as manager yet for the following season as the club were in a state of turmoil as they had just been relegated to 2nd division for the new season, but it looked very positive that he was going to resign as coach. It was offseason in Cyprus so I was told to go back to Australia for two months and to return on the 16th July 2011 to go to preseason camp in Austria for two weeks with the squad.
In Australia around middle of June I found out that the coach didn’t re-sign as the club had changed their whole board of directors and management from the previous season because they got relegated from 1st div. I got a call from my current coach now at Anorthosis asking if I wanted to sign with the reserves there for this season, so here I am.

4) What is it like living in Cyprus? What do they think of Aus football? I know Paul Okon played in Cyprus for a little bit.

 The lifestyle in Cyprus is very relaxed. The people here are very laidback and carefree. There are a lot of cafes here and they’re full of people pretty much every day at any time. They view Aussie footballers as very tall and physical players. They don’t know a great deal about Aussie football like the A League because it does not get show n on TV here, but they know a few of the big name players like Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Swarzcher because they play in the English Premier League. I showed a few of my team mates some pictures and videos of the some of the A League and NSW premier league matches and stadiums on the internet and they were really impressed with the level of quality.

Yes Paul Okon played here in Cyprus for Apoel Nicosia F.C (team I was at last season) for about one season in 2005. He is well known and rated very highly here in Cyprus. When he was coaching at Apia Leichardt Tigers F.C 1st grade three  years ago in the NSW Premier League I was in the u20's squad and was training up with 1st grade team under him and played a few pre season matches with them. During that time Paul invited me to be part of the train on squad of the u18's Australian National Team for the Australian Youth Olympic Festival that was held in Sydney. He was the head coach of that squad.

5) What do you hope to achieve in your football career?

 Since a young kid my dream was to play professionally overseas in Europe so I’m very happy to have played nearly 1.5 years now in Cyprus in a full-time professional environment.
I would like to stay in Europe another couple of years and keep progressing and getting more 1st grade experience and then would like to try my luck in the A-League or in Asia. I got a taste of the u18's Australian national team set up at the AYOF a couple of years back so I would like to represent the national team at some international level.

6) There are a lot of young players like your good self that are going straight to Europe and by-passing the A-League. Can you tell us if any A-League teams approached you? If not what was the reasoning for you to play in Cyprus compared to playing in the A-League?

 I have not been approached by any A League clubs as yet, I have been to a few sessions over the last few years with a few A League youth clubs like Sydney FC for 2 months and the Newcastle Jets when I was 17. A lot of young players are bypassing the A League and going straight overseas because there are more opportunities for players to play professionally abroad.

I think once players in Australia reach a certain age in their careers they get frustrated and decide to try their luck overseas. There are not enough teams in the A League for players to go to and the ones that do generally come from AIs or NSWIS. I think the A League is getting better and better each year with the amount of quality players that are coming from Europe and Asia. I think it still needs another three-four teams to give more home-grown players opportunities as well as another couple of years for the league to keep progressing and growing.

 I would love to play in the A League someday, but for now I have to keep focused and keep working and progressing here in Europe. After my season finished with the West Sydney Berries in 2010 I sent my football DVD and resume to Cyprus to a contact through the AESFA and got a few trials. Nothing was happening as far as A League opportunities so it was an easy decision for me to go overseas and see if I could a gig in a professional set up. I've loved every minute of it, waking up every morning and training in a professional environment is a dream come true. I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

7) How do you relax away from football?
 In my spare time away from football I like to relax on the computer by watching movies and Skyeping with friends and family. I also enjoy going to the city centre of Limassol and go for a coffee or dinner with some friends. The people are very friendly and it’s also very helpful that I’m fluent in Greek so I can understand the Cypriot language pretty well most of the time. 

8) What kind of person are you? Describe yourself in a few words?
 I would describe myself as dedicated, hardworking and ambitious. I always put in 100% in whatever I do and always want to strive for more.

9) What is a usual week for you? Can you give us an insight into a week as a player for Anorthosis on and off the field?

 I usually wake up at 8:30 every day except for Sundays. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursday mornings the first thing I do is I go training at the park (not with the team) and do my own programme of running and sprint work. 

A usual week of training consists of Monday- Morning session at the gym with the team (stretching and recovery session), followed by afternoon team training, Tuesday- Afternoon team training and video session, Wednesdays- Afternoon team training, Thursdays- day off, usually just do a light gym session or a yoga class followed by a massage,
Fridays- Short afternoon team session in preparation for weekends match. It’s usually a Saturday match so we have a pre match meal at our club before every game regardless if it’s home or away. In the odd occasion that we play on Sundays we have a very light session on Saturday morning. Sundays is usually a free day so I tend to hang out a cafe in the city centre of Limassol with a few friends watching the football.

I also spoke to newly appointed Young Socceroos coach Paul Okon about his time in Cyprus and what he thought of Andricopoulos.
"Cyprus was a very different experience but one I'm grateful to have had. Apoel is a big club with great supporters.

Costa is a good kid with a great attitude who is more than capable on the ball."

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