Celtic’s Canberra connection sees Rogic mentor rising star

EXCLUSIVE | Imagine debuting in Australia's NPL as a 16-year-old, then a few months later becoming a club teammate of Celtic’s Tom Rogic?

And when you arrive at the Scottish club, it's the Caltex Socceroos star who helps you settle in, drives you around and verses you in PlayStation!

Welcome to 17-year-old Australian Leo Mazis' life. 

It's been a whirlwind few months for the son of former NSL player-turned-coach Peter Mazis and his family in Canberra. 

Last year, the teenager made his NPL debut as a 16-year-old with Belconnen United in Canberra.

This week, he inked a deal with the Scottish powerhouse Celtic.

Mazis will play in the Hoops' Development team but also train with Brendan Rodgers’ first team alongside Rogic and the other big names at Parkhead. 

And as Leo’s father Peter explains, Rogic has drawn on his own experiences of being the new kid from Oz at Celtic to help his fellow Canberran during his first winter in Glasgow.

“Tommy does what he can to pick Leo up, take him into town and play PlayStation, see a movie, so it doesn’t feel like he’s alone,” Leo’s father Peter tells www.socceroos.com.au.

“He’ll do whatever he can to help settle Leo and make him feel comfortable. He’s really taken an interest.

“I had a fair bit to do with Tommy as a coach. We had a chat and he said he’d pretty much be like a father to Leo.

“Tommy’s own father says he feels like he’s lost a son pretty much since he’s been in Scotland and Tommy’s aware of the loneliness and difficulty.

“Tommy’s had the loneliness over there, though he now lives there with his partner. It is a lonely place but also Glasgow is a nice place.”

Mazis family
The Mazis family are proud of Leo (far right) and his achievements so far in football

In recent years, as Mazis moved through the club system in the ACT, he has trained with former Caltex Socceroo-turned-agent Andrew Bernal.

And it was Bernal who saw the attacking midfielder's potential and arranged the trial at Celtic last October (through his connections with the club’s assistant coach Chris Davies and head coach Rodgers). 

Mazis shone enough to be offered a spot in the youth set up at the club, and after the paperwork came through from FIFA, the Hoops announced the Aussie’s signing this week.

Leo lives in digs with two Irish players in Lennoxtown next to Celtic’s training HQ.

It’s early days, but the teenager will hope to continue a fabulous tradition of Aussies at the club.

Mark Viduka, Scott McDonald and now Rogic are all firm fan favourites with the Parkhead faithful.

“When Tommy strode in and dropped off Leo at the hotel, we’d see him after training and the doors would open for him," Peter added 

“He’s well known and well respected by all of them. He does have a presence for a quiet lad.

“But obviously what he’s done on the park scoring some massive goals for Celtic.”

Mazis is on an Italian passport in Scotland. And he is eligible to play in the UEFA youth league should the Celtic youth side qualify.

“It’s reassuring when those at the top of the club, like Brendan Rodgers, have taken an interest and he’s on the radar," adds father Peter, himself a former national soccer league player with Canberra Cosmos who played alongside the likes of Socceroos greats Vince Grella and Paul Wade.

"He couldn’t be at a better place. He’s going to be developing really quickly. It’s up to him to maximise his development and if he makes it into the first team then great.

“He’s got everything in front of him," added Peter. 

Image credit: Jeremy Byrnes, Heartstory Photography