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.
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.