The Caltex Socceroos’ clashes with Greece in the upcoming Dodoni Series promises to be exciting affairs but will be extra special for ex-Australian star Chris Kalantzis.
The former Socceroo would be well-known to many Greek Australians for his exploits in the 1980s and ‘90s both here in Australia and also in Greece.
An exceptional talent, Kalantzis started his career with Sydney Olympic in the NSL, making his first-team debut as a 16-year-old under legendary coach Frank Arok.
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But it’s in Greece where the flamboyant attacker really made his mark, spending five years at each of the country’s two biggest clubs, first Panathinaikos and then Olympiakos.
After a good career both at home and abroad, Kalantzis enjoys watching the game now and can’t wait for the visit of the Greek national team next month.
And Kalantzis will be part of a special presentation at half-time of the game in Sydney with a cap for his career in the Green and Gold.
“It’s such an honour and very big for me,” Kalantzis told www.socceroos.com.au
“I left here when I was very young and having a Greek background and playing there for 10 years, to be back here and for this to happen now is big for me.
“It’s been a while, I thought maybe I have been forgotten about,” he joked.
“A lot of Greeks are prepared to go to the game as well as they love their football so it will be a special night.”
Kalantzis’ big break came after representing the Australian under-20 side at the World Youth Cup in Russia in 1985, while also performing well for Olympic.
He went on to play 15 games for the Socceroos over the next couple of years, scoring a goal against China, before signing with Panathinaikos and spending the next decade in Greece.
And he revealed there was a push for him to switch his allegiance while playing and performing so well in the Greek Super League.
“When I was at Panathinaikos the people there were trying to get me to play for the national team in Greece,” Kalantzis said.
“They were trying to make it happen but it was too difficult. We gave it a try though.
“But it’s a bit like going to war. Once you’ve already played for one country, you can’t go to war for another.”
Kalantzis returned to Sydney Olympic in 1997 to finish out his career in the NSL and – now 48 – is still involved in the game in Sydney.
Currently coaching the under-18 team at Dunbar, Kalantzis is keen to do his coaching badges and see where it takes him.
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“I’d love to do coaching or technical director stuff. I’m just seeing how it goes,” he said.
“I’m willing to help out Australian football.
“We got looked after by our clubs so coming back it’s the right thing to do to put back our knowledge into football.”
As for the result when Australia take on Greece in Sydney on June 4 and Melbourne June 7?
“I think it will be a draw. 1-1 or 2-2,” Kalantzis predicts.
“Greece is a team that’s technical, probably similar to the Italians. Their style of play is right up there. It’s just having a good team effort rather than having a few individuals.
“They have a few good players but so do Australia. It should be a really good game…I’m really looking forward to it.”