Olympiacos Melbourne: The benevolent football philanthropy advancing footballers to further their careers

Olympiacos Melbourne

Olympiacos Melbourne is a football philanthropy that has transformed hundreds of children and seniors in the most influential way during its long history, not only on the pitch but also off it.

The organisation was established almost 20 years ago with its founder Frank, who developed players on the football pitch and also in their daily lives.

Olympiacos Melbourne CEO Steve Papadopoulos is also at the heart of it, where he made the decision to join in that lead role four years ago.

Speaking to Soccerscene, he provides an in-depth insight into why he joined, how reciprocal European clubs are to Australian players and much more.

“I have known the founder for quite a number of years and his name is Frank, he has been running philanthropy for close to 20 years,” Papadopoulos said.

“What l noticed was the change that he makes to kids, from a soccer results point of view it’s phenomenal and from a psychological point of view as well it is absolutely amazing, and so l was touched by that and just came in to help out with that and do whatever to assist in that aspect.”

Four significant initiatives exist in this organisation. The first, the Helping Kids Football Centre, starts at developing the juniors self-identity and confidence. The second, Football Improvement Centre, helps families afford the extra training for struggling club players. The ID Schools – Junior Euro pathway is the third initiative which allows families to afford the kids Euro pro dream with Olympiacos FC having the first right of acceptance and refusal for boys under the age of 16. The last initiative, the Men’s Euro Pro pathway, allows families to be able to afford the Euro pro dream for their young men, where the philanthropy finds a suitable club in Europe from which they can commence their professional career.

The young players that play for clubs and looking for additional training to improve and get more gametime at the organisation’s football centres allow parents and struggling families to be able to afford that opportunity.

The cost of four sessions per week starts at $29, making it affordable for the families struggling financially.

The cost of one junior player to play for higher league local clubs is $4,000, where Papadopoulos was asked is this an obstacle for the younger footballers coming through.

“I think it is because there is a lot of families who can’t afford that, but what is a bigger obstacle if a child is wanting to go overseas and they do want to do the extra training hours, the parents have to purchase additional training on top of that $20,000 – $30,000 that’s spent and that price can vary significantly,” he explained.

Considering Europe is the top prize of every young footballer growing up, Papadopoulos explores how reciprocal European clubs are to Australian players.

“It’s very stiff competition, obviously Europe is the top prize for players, so a lot of Europeans have found is they do a significant number of hours in training and we don’t do as many hours as Australians for various reasons,” he touched on.

“Basically, what they see is there is some quality in Australian players but having said that they know that we are not comparing to them in terms of the training hours that we are doing, they know statistically that we don’t have much of a chance of actually being successful.

“They are aware that if an Australian player comes that they are most likely have not done enough hours required into becoming an elite sportsman. This is where our philanthropy helps, we provide the ability for the extra training hours at a very affordable price.”

In June 2023, the football philanthropy has been able to achieve tangible results for their young men, sending 3 men for pro Euro trials and all 3 are now playing for Euro pro teams. Cristhian Garcia, who started at the Helping Kids Football Centre, managed to start his pro Euro career at 31 years of age at FK Minija, Lithuania. Jack Yousif, 24, and Ahmed Almajidy, 22, both have positions at FK Tauras, Lithuania. All 3 players are now professional European players who are exposed to other European clubs, being able to promote themselves to higher calibre clubs as they prove their worth.

 

For a player to utilise both their left and right foot during a game is a feature that needs to be upskilled. Another quality to be worked that is not being taught enough is to dribble head-up – Papadopoulos reflected on if it’s a department that Australian players are lacking in.

“I think the one thing that players really need is to have equally strong feet – they can’t have one stronger than the other, that way the opponent is not forcing them onto their weaker foot, and also l think players are not learning enough to dribble with head-up because it is cutting their vision.”

For more information about Olympiacos Melbourne and the programs they provide, click here.

Hanh Tran: “I have a passion for providing a voice for women in sport”

Hanh Tran is a familiar voice across Football Victoria, having served as the original Series Futsal women’s broadcaster. Hanh has become well intertwined within women’s football across the state.

An advocate for women’s football, she has effectively singlehandedly shone a spotlight upon women’s futsal.

Throughout her established commentary career, Hanh has had broadcast involvement in finals, cup competitions and League matches across both indoor and outdoor women’s and men’s football competitions.

Speaking to Soccerscene, she discussed topics including being a commentator, what her dream is as a commentator, and the changes she would like to see in Australian womens football.

Tell me about yourself as a commentator.

Hanh Tran: I have been commentating on women’s soccer for a little over 5 years.  I first began commentating on woman’s futsal for the Series Futsal Victoria Women’s league, played at Futsal Oz.

At the time the Men’s competition had weekly commentators calling their game and the women’s did not.  I was also a player for the women’s league at the time.

I felt that the woman needed a voice to help boost and build their game, so I then made the initiative to jump on the mic and give commentating a try with the encouragement from owner Peter Parthimos I was in the box commentating my first week after.

In the beginning, it was all voluntary work and was more than happy to provide my time each week as it was something that I loved doing and the players enjoyed watching the game with commentary on it.

In late 2019 Football Victoria held an information seminar for women in media. This opened a huge door for me to help bring my commentating to a new level and provide me with a new challenge.

I was invited to join the Football Victoria commentary team for the upcoming 2020 season of NPL and NPL Women’s.

Unfortunately, due to COVID, I couldn’t make my debut to call the NPLW games that year. Fast forward to 2021 and I have been on the roster for most of this season calling the NPLW games.

I have a passion for providing a voice for women in sport, where at times there has been a male broadcaster calling female games. I feel the industry is in the progression of providing opportunities for diversity.

Growing up, I played every sport that was provided to me and loved being part of the community of sport.

When I watch I hear sports on the TV or radio, I’m so intrigued by the commentators and the way they capture the audience and entertain us in their own unique way when calling the game. I’m always listening out to different techniques and phrases that they use.

I remember watching the Matilda’s vs Vietnam in the Olympic qualifying match and made myself a personal goal to one day commentate a Vietnamese vs Australia football game.

Being from a Vietnamese background, that would be a dream come true. To represent Vietnam, Australia and be the voice for women’s football.

I want to be the pioneer of a Asian background and be a role model for future generation of commentators and media personnel.

What is something with women’s football you’d like to see change?

Hanh Tran: I would love to see more promotion and increasing the exposure of women in the media and to boost diversity in the industry.

I found there was a lack of content to champion and showcase the female players; and most of these outlets were hosted mainly by men.

More games being streamed, especially VPLW. More podcast, reels, panel shows. Pre game and post game interviews.

Advertisement of the players and their clubs, introductory videos of the clubs and teams, similar to USA college basketball and NFL and side line reporters.

What are your thoughts on the Nike Cup competition?

Hanh Tran: Love to see a VPLW team to get to the finals. One of the best quality games we’ve seen in a long time. 2 penalty shoot outs and 3 games going to extra time. They’ve been very close games.

Great exposure to smaller clubs that normally don’t get much limelight. FV have invested time and energy this year to make the cup stand out for the womens game.

Where would you wish to see growth within football in Australia?

Hanh Tran: More investment in the A league and growing the women’s game. So much support goes to the Matilda’s, but then no huge return of money invested in the A league.

Need more growth and international players come to the A-league to grow the game internationally to make it more entertaining.

Similar to what cricket did with the Big bash. Try something fun and exciting to bring in new and young viewers.

90 minutes is a long time to concentrate on a game that is low scoring, something that can bring in new football fans to watch the game.

A more sense of community and excitement, or collaboration with the men’s games, more double headers. The All-Star game was a hit against Arsenal, that will draw in more viewers and spectators.

Football West launches innovative Arabian Engagement Strategy

Western Australia grants

Football West have confirmed its Arabian Engagement Strategy in partnership with the Council for Australian-Arab Relations and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Simply, it seeks to enhance Australia’s bilateral ties with Arab countries through a shared passion for the world game.

In what is truly a first of its kind in Australian football, Football West and the Federal Government are using this Arabian Engagement Strategy to grow international engagement between Australia and Arab countries specifically through the delivery of training, education, school programs, tours, competitions and the development of players, coaches, and referees.

DFAT has confirmed a $50,000 grant from the Council for Australia-Arab Relations with the total project value listed at $297,786.

Football West CEO Jamie Harnwell spoke about the potential of growing WA football through this innovative collaboration said via press release: 

“The incredible growth of football in the Arab region is well documented and Football West is excited to be involved.” he said in a Football West statement,” he said. 

“We saw Qatar host the FIFA World Cup 18 months ago, while Saudi Arabia will host the tournament in 2034 and has currently attracted some of the biggest names in world football including Cristiano Ronaldo. And the UAE has the current AFC Champions League winners in Al Ain FC.

“Below the headline acts there is massive potential at grassroots levels in the three countries through sporting and cultural exchange visits.

“The primary objective is to position football in Western Australia as a prominent player within the three countries and offer West Australians unique opportunities in sports, culture and education.

“This includes joint development, training and technical programs; coaches and referee workshops; and matches between WA State teams and sides from Qatar, UAE and Saudi.

“The Arabian Engagement Strategy will further promote Football West and the Sam Kerr Football Centre as hubs for team base camps, professional training and exchange programs.

“We have seen the value of the Sam Kerr Football Centre with the recent visit of the Socceroos, and last year with the Matildas. Perth can deliver and that is being seen around the world.”

It is an interesting initiative that is innovative and ambitious as it seeks to reach the Middle East through the sport.

With the grant money tied in there is clearly a plan in place to execute it properly and hopefully provide WA teams with better training and development workshops for its players and referees.

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