Katholos and Spanoudakis – Players who know best

In this age of uncertainty, Australian football faces great challenges to maintain prosperity in the professional sporting environment.

The decision makers would assure the football fraternity,  the right decisions are being made by the  people who are responsible for the governance of the game.

However, the history of the game is highlighted by the failure to provide former players the opportunity to contribute  in their life after football.

Many of these players have succeeded in the business world but have never been sighted by the hierarchy.

In 1992, the former Socceroo great, Marshall Soper, commented the game was all about administrators, not players.

Two former players who have succeeded in the business world are former Sydney Olympic team-mates, Peter Katholos and Manny Spanoudakis.

Katholos commenced a business in the manufacture and supply of football equipment while still playing professionally, has applied his electronics background in telecommunications and pursued extensive property and development interests.

Spanoudakis’s specialty was in electronic engineering with Unisys and is now General Manager of Sales for global technology company, Cisco Systems, in the Asia Pacific region.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Katholos and Spanoudakis provide their insights into Australian football.

 

ROGER SLEEMAN

With the restart of the A- League, what are your views on the current state of the game?

MANNY SPANOUDAKIS

Like all fans, I’ve missed the game and it wasn’t before time that the League was recommenced.

Ironically, the pandemic is an inflexion point for the stakeholders to reassess the existing status of the key areas of operational, technical and administrative procedures, and to implement necessary change.

PETER KATHOLOS

The restart was critical because if the League wasn’t to be completed, it could’ve potentially led to its premature demise.

Some players and coaches haven’t returned and without a competition, there was no publicity and the League became a distant memory.

However, the game probably required a reset so it could come out stronger at the other end.

ROGER SLEEMAN

What was your opinion of the playing standard before the halt?

MANNY SPANOUDAKIS

Watching overseas football with no crowds over the last few months has given me the opportunity to reflect and compare against the standard of the A League. Whilst the tempo, skill and intensity overseas is more advanced than the A League, turnover of possession and defensive frailties even at the most elite level are still there to be seen. That said, the standard of the A League still has significant scope for improvement in order to be compared with most European leagues.

PETER KATHOLOS

There are a couple of good teams in the League but it’s far from exciting as there is an absence of creative players.

I watched Leeds United v Stoke City a few weeks ago in the English Championship and it was breathtaking.

It highlighted the speed, technique and intensity which is lacking in our game and the bottom line is broadcasters woudn’t be pulling out of A-League coverage ,and subscriptions wouldn’t have been declining so consistently in the last few seasons if the product was better.

ROGER SLEEMAN

What is your view on the XI Principles for the future of Australian football, recently released?

MANNY SPANOUDAKIS

The document is voluminous so it’s better to consider the main points.

Point number 1 refers to the requirement for a strong brand and identity. I believe the Socceroos and Matildas already have a strong affinity with even the most casual sports fan across Australia. However, at the domestic level, promotion and marketing of the A League is almost non existant.

The awarding of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will certainly increase awareness of our sport across all demographics and we should look to leverage this great event to amplify the A League at every opportunity.

PETER KATHOLOS

To improve the identity of the game, there has to be consistent marketing for the benefit of the sporting public.

People are aware we qualified for the last four World Cups which we should continually market to the masses.

Personally, I was pretty disturbed by the total lack of coverage when the A-League and NPL competitions ceased at the start of the Pandemic.

ROGER SLEEMAN

On that note, what are your thoughts about the viewing audience last Saturday for Central Coast v Perth of 9,000 compared to NRL of 804,000 and AFL 978,000.

MANNY SPANOUDAKIS

Before their seasons recommenced, the other codes launched their publicity machines and people knew what was happening.

Honestly,  I wasn’t aware that Sydney FC played Wellington in the first match of A- league until I saw the score the day after.

Also, I didn’t know about the Central Coast match so the message is, there has to be some money spent on promotion because I didn’t see any advertising for the A-League.

PETER KATHOLOS

The figures don’t lie which suggests the A-League isn’t exactly capturing the imagination of the sporting public.

ROGER SLEEMAN

Point 3 of the Principles highlights payments in the transfer system.

Your thoughts about player transfer payments.

MANNY SPANOUDAKIS

In order to stimulate the football economy, the most immediate focus should be for the establishment of a transfer system across all levels of football in Australia.

For example, I remember in 1989, Zlatko Arambasic was an up and coming striker playing for Canterbury Marrickville Olympic in the NSW Super League. Blacktown City was in the NSL and paid a $50,000 transfer fee to secure his services.

If NPL clubs can generate revenue from developing players, they can reinvest in better facilities and coaching which sustains the football economy.

PETER KATHOLOS

We need a vibrant and sustainable development system so the NPL clubs can be rewarded via a transfer system which provides the resources for them to continue to churn out quality players for the A- League and the national teams.

ROGER SLEEMAN

Point 5 in the Principles refers to creating a world class environment for youth development.

Your take on this.

MANNY SPANOUDAKIS

The whole youth development system needs to be revamped and a funding structure established.

In order to improve the end product, we need a 5-10 year plan which entails developing better youth coaches and investing more in player education.

Parent education also has a key role to play in assisting youth development because up to 80% of the player’s available time during the week is at home.

Consequently, nutrition, fitness levels and private practice of technique and drills have to be of the highest order.

PETER KATHOLOS

Our major objective should be to develop better players who can boost attendances and bring more money into the game with the help of companies and the government.

In the 80’s, when I played at Sydney Olympic, our star local players attracted crowds of 10-15,000 without much promotion.

If you raise standards, more money will naturally flow into the game and also players can be sold overseas providing another substantial revenue stream.

ROGER SLEEMAN

There is a severe absence of past players involved in the game.

How can this change?

MANNY SPANOUDAKIS

As a corporate manager, I believe you need football people in the key positions of financial,  operations and marketing.

Historically, the CEO role was awarded to a non-football industry candidate but times have changed and James Johnson’s appointment was a positive one and quite timely.

The previous CEO’S had a lack of emotional connection to the game so at least giant strides have been made here.

PETER KATHOLOS

There are enough football people and former players available to be involved in all areas of the game like in Europe.

When the FFA started, their executives didn’t know who we were.

The skill set of former players should be utilized in coaching, mentoring, marketing and administration.

I applaud the selection of the first eleven but the key issue is, some of these current and former players may have little business experience.

Undoubtedly, there are many former players who have succeeded in business and willing to make a contribution to the progress of the game.

ROGER SLEEMAN

Is the administration hanging its hat on the success of the Women’s World Cup bid?

MANNY SPANOUDAKIS

This is a fantastic victory for the sport as it promotes gender equality and it should be an amazing tournament.

During the difficult times, a better good news story couldn’t have happened to the sport.

PETER KATHOLOS

This was a real success after the failure of the Men’s World Cup bid and hopefully it will encourage a large commitment to building better infrastructure for the sport.

Frankly, I didn’t follow the women’s game closely until the Stajic saga prompted me to take interest.

However, I believe the players like our men, have to improve the technical side of their game if they’re going to be a threat in the tournament.

Parramatta City FC: Celebrating 50 years and a place to truly call home

As a Club entrenched in history, Parramatta City FC has secured a double milestone in its future towards providing a football team for the region.

For many years, Parramatta City had no authentic home ground, having been based in the neighbouring suburb of Rydalmere.

However, coinciding with the half century of existence is the confirmed move to Old Saleyards Reserve in the suitably located heartland of North Parramatta.

Thanks to the individuals and committee members and their negotiations with City of Parramatta Council, the new fields bring a range of benefits – such as increased capacity for participation, improved facilities and enhanced community engagement.

Two of those committee members to turn the plans into reality are Club Secretary Lou Mantzos and President Angelo Aronis.

Having been at the Club since day one in 1974 from their junior days in numerous capacities, both are still heavily involved in driving future growth in participants in junior and senior level.

Mantzos described what it was like at Rydalmere and how the move across to Old Salesyards Reserve unfolded.

Training at Eric Primrose Reserve in Rydalmere.

“We had been at Rydalmere since 1981 and it’s an older area that is now growing with some new housing,” he told Soccerscene.

“However, the only way for us to survive long-term was being back in Parramatta, rather than competing with Rydalmere FC who are based up the road and with brand new facilities.

“The breakthrough occurred last year with executive general managers of council in the parks & recreation area.

“We had follow up meetings early this year and eventually our mission was accomplished in leasing Old Saleyards Reserve which is a nine-year-old facility.

“The fields are in excellent shape and rated as one of three A-grade grounds in the Parramatta precinct.

“We now have a dozen teams training and playing at the venue and once the junior rugby league moves across to Doyle Park nearby, we will be permanently based at our new home in 2025.”

The new home of Old Saleyards Reserve.

Similarly to all clubs involved in the negotiation process, challenges are always going to occur, whether it be due to capacity or financially.

Aronis shared his involvement at the Club alongside Mantzos during a difficult period.

“We came into it 4-5 years ago as a sub-committee, working on the new grounds and other issues involved in the Club,” he said to Soccerscene.

“The previous committees did their best in trying times, worked hard, kept the club afloat especially during the Covid pandemic but lost numerous teams during and post this period, and potentially other clubs had similar problems.

“It did make us realise that Rydalmere was not a growth area.

“For example, across Silverwater Road, Newington and Sydney Olympic Park precinct was thriving and nobody wanted to cross over and get to us which is essentially walking distance.

“The other side of Silverwater Road, which includes Wilson Park, now NSW cricket academy, was growing exponentially and the previous committees just weren’t able to attract the numbers we needed.”

The Covid-19 pandemic was not immune to Parramatta City, who needed to navigate through postponed games and seasons.

It presented the confronting reality that even a Club like Parramatta City could fold due to mounting hardship and pressure.

However, Aronis and Mantzos persevered and played a crucial role in keeping the Club afloat.

It was one initiative in particular that Mantzos believes changed the Club’s fortunes entirely.

“In September last year, after failed attempts due to Covid-19 lockdowns, we finally held a reunion game to bring back some familiar faces,” he said.

“It was Andrew Charlton (Federal MP for Parramatta) who assisted with funding for some new equipment and together helped bring many former players back to participate on the day.

“There was a collective buy-in from all participants – the former Parramatta City state league (a powerhouse during the 90’s) and all-age players paid $20 to enter as a way to raise funds and interest.

“We got 40 players on the day and the game attracted a lot of attention as people started talking about it and that was the reason why we did it – we wanted to get traction back rather than see a slow demise.

“We had a ‘Beyond 50’ push that really urged Club members to get behind us and do what they could to keep us around for the next 50 years.”

The reunion game welcomed many familiar faces.

The reunion proved a major hit, paving the way for long-term success in participation.

Aronis added what the overall impact was like post-event and a great indication of what we expect to see.

“We had two teams in 2023 as a band-aid solution, and if it stayed that way, we would have had no choice but in folding the Club,” he said.

“For this season, the number of teams is up at 12 and the reunion was one of the springboard we needed as we reached that figure without really trying.

“Now, we anticipate that we will double that figure by 2025 which would be a fantastic result.

“We were really proud of the efforts of all involved on reunion day and every bit that went into it was worth it.”

“In closing, I sincerely thank all those individuals and recent committees of this proud club for the contributions.”

Peter Tsekenis, Peter Papoythis and Manny Spanoudakis: Marconi’s three wise men

It’s rare to witness longevity in Australian football coaching staff.

However, in the world of Marconi head coach, Peter Tsekenis, and assistant coach, Peter Papoythis, a magic formula exists which has seen the coaching duo share 17 years together – including eight years in their current roles at Bossley Park.

Three years ago, the pair was joined by well known coaching analyst, Manny Spanoudakis, who has added another strand of expertise to the coaching regime.

With the National Second Tier imminent in 2025, the three coaches have a new challenge to restore the famous club to its former glory.

It’s no secret the club paraded some of the greatest players in Australian football history during the NSL – with the likes of Jim Rooney, Ray Richards, Ernie Campbell, Alan Maher, John Russell, Gary Byrne, Bertie Mariani, Richie Williams, Stewart Robertson, Paul Degney, Mark Jankovics, Peter Sharne, David Lowe, Rob Wheatley, Luke Casserly, Kimon Taliadoros, Ian Gray, Roberto Vieri, Rod Brown, Eddie Krncevic, Paul Carter, Tom McCulloch, Tony Henderson, Jean Paul de Marigny, Frank Farina, Peter Katholos, Steve Corica, Mark Schwarzer and Ian Hunter filling Marconi Stadium every time they appeared.

This season is a watershed in preparation for the National Second Tier and the Club is currently in fourth spot, just two points behind leaders Western Sydney Wanderers.

“There were a lot of changes this season with a refreshed squad of young players adding to the core group,” Peter Tsekenis said.

“Unlike Marconi in previous years and some other clubs, we believe it‘s important to cultivate youth development and this year will see several players emerging to make their mark on the League.

“Nevertheless, we’ve experienced the usual injuries and suspensions early in the season, but after the unfortunate 3-2 away loss to Sydney United, we bounced back with that resounding 4-0 win against St. George which was repeated with another 4-0 defeat of Hills United last Saturday night.”

Marconi players look on during the 3-2 loss to Sydney United.

“It was a total rebuild this season because we lost thirteen players in the off season and the new players have to understand what the coaching staff want,” Peter Papoythis said.

“The loss of James Bayliss in the first round for the season due to a popped shoulder was certainly something we didn’t expect.

“Fortunately, the established players Marco Jesic, Brandon Vella and Nathan Millgate are a mainstay and are supported well by Dominic Costanzo and James Temelkovski.”

The Marconi Men in a team photo.

“With the addition of the younger players this year, there has been a great energy to train and learn,” Manny Spanoudakis said.

“The five games played in fourteen days preceding the Sydney United match was a real test for the squad.”

“We were accused of parking the bus against Sydney United in the second half after dominating the first half and leading 2-0, but the heavy program certainly didn’t aid our cause,” Peter Papoythis added.

“There were no instructions to close the game down and our players simply didn’t rise to the challenge by neglecting the plan to play more into the opponents half in the second 45 minutes,” Tsekenis explained.

Marconi’s Senior Women who compete in their respective NPL NSW competition.

“Closing shop isn’t in our vocabulary and we’d had a good week of preparation,” Spanoudakis said.

“However, with new, young players who only have 30 games under their belt, game management, fitness and the extremely congested program weighed against us.

“We faced a similar situation on the Wednesday night, after the Sydney United defeat in the Australia Cup match against Southern Districts when we were down 2-0 at half time.

“In the second half we returned to our game plan and scored four goals which proved the players had learned from the Sydney United loss.”

“The late loss to Sydney United was a setback  but we didn’t set out to defend and some credit must be paid to our opponents for coming out at us throughout the second half and the winning goal was a screamer which couldn’t be prevented,” Papoythis added.

Rockdale Ilinden v Marconi in Round 2 NPL NSW Men’s.

With the stronger level of competition anticipated in the N.S.T., Tsekenis believes the brand of football will be similar to the NPL but the quality of player the League will attract will be better which will ensure a rise in playing standards.

“I’m programmed to play in the NST as the competition will provide a new challenge playing against Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and hopefully Tasmanian teams” he said.

“The NPL has its limitations and younger players will want to play in it and critically the Marconi club is totally switched on for it to provide something different for our supporters.”

“This will encourage former NSL fans to reconnect with the game as they will be seeing the best players from NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and possibly Tasmania competing at the highest level in a more professional League,” Spanoudakis added.

Sydney Olympic v Marconi in Round 4 of NPL NSW Men’s.

In anticipation of the step up to the N.S.T. , in the last two years, the Marconi club has implemented major refurbishment to the ground facilities, including a brand new state of the art scoreboard, painting of the grandstand, new world class change rooms for the home and visiting teams and two new synthetic pitches with grandstands and scoreboards.

“The field dimensions of these pitches are bigger than some other club’s facilities and it means irrespective of the weather we always train,” Tsekenis said.

“These facilities were a great investment because they were used for the home base of the Columbian Women’s World Cup squad last year,” Spanoudakis explained.

“The club is also planning replacement of the plastic seating if there is a positive response to the NST from supporters.

“Who knows, if demand is great enough for the NST, the club could make the ground an all seater boutique stadium.”

Marconi v Sydney FC in Round 7 NPL NSW Men’s.

This begs the question as to how a club like Marconi with 40,000 members isn’t in the A-League.

Peter Tsekenis believes as a coach you always aspire to the next level and geographically Marconi sits between Macarthur and Western Sydney Wanderers.

However, at this stage the club would appear committed to establishing itself in the NST before it entertains thoughts of applying for the A-League.

“It would be a perfect fit but it really depends on the aspirations of the club Board and the demands of the members,” he said.

“Yet there are players from the club who have moved on to A- League and that will continue to happen.

“Some players are content to play NPL as they earn more money playing part time football and working in a job.

“This is the case with some players who have been approached by A-League clubs but prefer to play part time football.”

“The club has everything to offer if it wanted to make a bid to play in the A-League and I would love to be part of it,” Papoythis added.

“However, consolidation in the NST is the first objective and then it’s up to the decision makers whether the A-League should be pursued.”

“A number of players in our current Marconi squad could step up to A-League if they were given the opportunity to train on a full time basis,” Spanoudakis explained.

“The N.S.T. needs to be fulltime so we can have six sessions per week, rather than only three.”

With the advent of the NST, there will also be more opportunity for coaches, but Peter Tsekenis always has adopted the philosophy of not looking too far ahead.

“I’m privileged to be coaching at one of the biggest clubs in the country and seeking success for the club this season is my main focus,” he said.

“The NST will be the next challenge and naturally to progress to a coaching job in the A-League with Marconi would be ideal.

“Beyond that I would love to be involved with the junior national teams which I experienced as a player.”

“I dream of having a full time job in football like coaches have in Europe even in the lower divisions because it’s difficult when you’re working in a business and trying to commit to football totally,” Papoythis added.

Manny Spanoudakis doesn’t look too far ahead but believes if you focus on the job at hand, opportunities will naturally present.

“I have really enjoyed my stint at Marconi for the last three years and if coaching at a higher level became available, I would consider it carefully,” he said.

“However, my main focus currently is to assist the coaching staff in their goal to add trophies to the club’s collection.”

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