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George Stamboulidis: Young Socceroos’ journey from Melbourne to Madrid

In just a few short years, George Stamboulidis has transitioned from playing in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs to one of football’s global meccas.

In a recent interview with Football Victoria, Stamboulidis shed light on his journey to Madrid-based Rayo Vallecano, his professional development, and ambitions for the future.

The following was published as Young Socceroos’ Spanish Incentive | Football Victoria.

Stamboulidis signed with the Spanish club shortly after his call up to the Young Socceroos under 20 identification camp in Holland back in February. The young, gifted midfielder however was quickly forced to return home to Melbourne shortly however, as Covid-19 swept through Spain.

Upon his return, no time was wasted when a program was swiftly produced for him by mentor and former South Melbourne FC and Brighton Albion legend David Clarkson with the help of Football Victoria Technical Director Boris Seroshtan, strength and conditioning coach Piero Sarchetta, and his personal UEFA Pro Licence football coach Greek Super League veteran Goulis Karaisaridis.

Adhering to strict government restrictions to combat the pandemic, Stamboulidis was lucky to train with his brother Haris (a graduate of Columbia University and current professional footballer with Segunda División B side Unión Popular de Langreo), who also returned from Spain. Both brothers fondly recalling their younger years and how their backyard was converted to a gym where they would spend a lot of time working out or “jamming” together on the guitar or piano.

Stamboulidis played for a number of clubs in Melbourne, including Heidelberg United under-20s.

Standing at approximately six foot, Stamboulidis considers himself very fortunate to be able to draw on the advice he received from Young Socceroos Coach Gary Van Egmond regarding his strength and conditioning while upkeeping his silky football skills on a daily basis even with the absence of matches being played. Football was also complimented by Stamboulidis enrolling online at the University of Melbourne after graduating from the prestigious Carey Baptist Grammar School on scholarship, with an ATAR score of 92.4

Stamboulidis credits Football Victoria Technical Director Boris Seroshtan and Melbourne City’s Rado Vidosic for assisting him to breakthrough. The pair chose him to take part in the inaugural Elite Late Development Program, which provided him the platform to launch his career.

Fast forwarding 10 months and Stamboulidis has now settled back at Rayo Vallecano and is pushing for an opportunity in the Rayo Vallecano B team, his aim, whilst at the same time playing valuable minutes in the under 23 side in a men’s competition. Stamboulidis’ proficiency in French, Greek and Spanish has seen him named vice-captain in a diverse team, which helps him communicate effectively on and off the field.

Despite the excitement of playing in one of Europe’s top leagues, the midfielder is taking a patient approach, adopting a personal motto of “work hard and then harder, then only I may get an opportunity I could take”.

“The difference I see between Australia and Europe is the time spent training and the myriad of opportunities that exist for players to play many more matches than what is provided for elite young footballers back home in Australia,” Stamboulidis said.

“I spent a bit of time in Greece playing and the football culture was another level to what we footballers are used to in Australia. However people in Spain and in particular Madrid, has football so entrenched in people’s lives and the culture that there isn’t a moment when you do not hear, watch or play football in all its forms. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to develop, learn, play and enjoy the game I have loved since I was four years old,” he said.

Regional NSW gets boost ahead of 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

A NSW Government funded talent identification and youth development program over the next three years will help young girls who aspire to play for the Matildas.

This morning, Deputy Premier John Barilaro launched the program in Albury and explained how an investment of $750,000 will ensure players from Regional NSW have the opportunity to showcase their skills, leading up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

“Regional NSW is home to some of the most talented athletes in the country and has a rich history of producing Matildas with more than half of the National team coming from our State’s regions over the past forty years,” Mr Barilaro said.

“This investment from the NSW Government will ensure the next generation of girls and young women in regional NSW have the same level of access to coaching and support as their peers in the city as they strive to represent Australia on the world stage.”

It is designed for girls aged 12 to 18 years old, with funding to support the establishment of training hubs across the state and identifying talented young players will be further supported through the provision of training camps and player support scholarships – the added bonus is potentially being tutored by current and former Matildas.

Acting Minister for Sport Geoff Lee said the NSW Government is committed to ensuring a lasting legacy from hosting FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 matches.

“We are witnessing an exciting new era in Australian women’s football and this investment will create successful pathways for aspiring girls in Regional NSW who dream of wearing the green and gold,” Mr Lee said.

“With current and former Matildas stars including Ellie Carpenter, Sally Shipard and Amy Chapman all growing up in regional NSW, this program will establish a pathway for aspiring Matildas in their local communities.”

Football NSW Chief Executive, Stuart Hodge, was there for today’s launch, as was 110 cap Matilda, Joey Peters hailing from Leeton in the Riverina, as well as football representatives including young talented players from the Albury-Wodonga Football Association.

Hodge believes the NSW Government’s investment has created a once in a generation opportunity for upcoming female athletes.

“Hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will inspire the next generation of Matildas and with the support of the NSW Government, together with Football Australia and Northern NSW Football, we are committed to providing the best training and development opportunities for our female athletes across regional NSW,” Mr Hodge said.

Chief Executive of Northern NSW Football, David Eland was also pleased with the announcement.

“The support provided by the NSW Government is invaluable and will assist NNSWF to provide the most talented female footballers in our region with access to programs, services, coaching and competitive opportunities required to fulfil their potential and aspirations to represent their Country.”

Former Matilda and Westfield W-League player Ashleigh Sykes, with 19 caps for the national team, who together with her twin sister Nicole grew up in Dubbo, enthusiastically supported today’s announcement.

“Growing up in Western NSW, sometimes it was easy to feel forgotten and isolated, like you’re not being seen as often as some of the city kids,” she said.

“I was lucky enough to benefit from people sticking together and supporting each other, from small group sessions to dedicated and loving coaches, to men’s teams providing a competitive training environment.

“For us, when the opportunity came up, moving to a city like Sydney or Canberra was a big decision at the age of 16 years.

“We made the choice to stay at home to finish school but then had to do lots of travelling to development camps. What this new program is offering will provide young girls aspiring to play for the country with enhanced opportunities which I think is fantastic and I am excited to be involved.”

Football Queensland’s Club Support Hub to assist Play Football campaign

Football Queensland has launched their new Club Support Hub, alongside the 2021 Play Football registration campaign.

“In the Strategic Plan, FQ committed to improving the support of our clubs and volunteers throughout the state,” Football Queensland CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

“That is why we have developed the Club Support Hub, which provides a single destination for Queensland clubs to easily access marketing guides, retention and recruitment strategies, graphic design assistance, and promotional material for coach and referee courses.

“It builds on FQ’s other recent club support initiatives including the expanding Facilities Hub and the creation of the Club Development Unit.

“The launch of the Club Support Hub has been timed to coincide with the Play Football campaign as FQ leads a targeted digital strategy in Queensland, with localised messaging in each region and a central focus on the retention and recruitment of women and girls, and referees.

“By supporting and building capacity within clubs at the same time, we can align our efforts and ensure the football community is united in growing the game.

“The national ‘Join Our Team’ tagline supports this collective approach to showcasing football as we constantly work on providing participation opportunities for all Queenslanders regardless of age, gender, location or background.”

Players, coaches, referees and volunteers are able to sign up for the new season via Play Football’s national registration portal.

The Club Support Hub can be accessed here.

Socceroos and Matildas secure innovative fan engagement product

Socceroos and Matildas fans will be able to integrate Australia’s national football teams further into their daily lives, after the release of customisable homepage browser extensions for both sides.

Fan engagement company brandTurbo are the masterminds behind the product, with the Socceroos and Matildas becoming the first national football teams in the world to offer such a service.

The browsers are available now via Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, offering supporters the opportunity to access the latest team news, updates, highlights and features each time they decide to open a new browser.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson highlighted the importance of offering football fans innovative ways to further connect with the Socceroos and Matildas.

“Principle XI of the XI Principles for the future of Australian football highlights Football Australia’s intent to further enhance the strong reputations of our national teams and transform them into uniquely iconic brands,” Johnson said. “Discovering and implementing fresh and increasingly innovative digital solutions to engage supporters and keep them connected with our national teams is an important part of that process.”

“2021 is set to be a significant year of activity for both squads, as the Socceroos resume FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifying under Graham Arnold, and the Westfield Matildas commence an exciting era under Tony Gustavsson. By downloading and using the Socceroos and Westfield Matildas homepage extensions, fans can ensure that they don’t miss a moment of each team’s progress, while also having the capability to customise their backgrounds with an array of images that showcase why we love our teams so much.

“We are pleased that the Socceroos and Westfield Matildas will be the first national teams globally to feature on the brandTURBO service,” Johnson concluded.

Fans can download the official Socceroos browser extension here and the official Matildas browser extension here (both for Windows and Mac OS).

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