When it was announced that the Caltex Socceroos would host Greece this June in the Dodoni Series, former Australian international and AEK star Jim Patikas immediately flashed back to his childhood.
“For me it brings back memories when my dad was taking me when I was 10-11 years old to see Pan Hellenic play, now Sydney Olympic,” Patikas toldwww.socceroos.com.au.
“We went to see Greece play when I was 15 years old when they first came out as well.
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“Growing up with soccer in the old days, it’s not like now where you go for the Wanderers or Sydney FC.
“It’s great memories from the past and it’s in your heart because it’s where your family comes from. We’re all going to this game as a family, too.”
Former Socceroo Patikas was a star of the game in Australia and Greece over almost two decades in the 1980s and 90s.
With his blistering speed, he burst onto the scene in the NSL with Sydney City before joining the Sir Alex Ferguson-coached Aberdeen in Scotland in 1981.
He had further stints at Olympic and Sydney United but it was in almost a decade at AEK Athens in Greece where his star shone the brightest.
“I played for AEK for 10 years and it was great times. We won a few championships and the Greek Cup as well,” said Patikas, a darling of the AEK fans and also the first Australian to play in the UEFA Champions League.
“I still have a lot of friends over there and a lot of the guys I played with are now coaching and part of academies.
“Stelios Manolas is coaching AEK now and he led them to the Greek Cup (in May) beating Olympiakos 2-1 and he was my roommate back in the day.
“At the end of the day you’re team-mates and the memories you have are the best thing about being a sportsman.”
Ironically, in this current Socceroo squad is Nathan Burns, himself a similar player to Patikas and a former AEK player.
These days Patikas is doing some coaching of his own, working with the juniors at Inter Lions as well as the Sydney Olympic under-16 side.
And he’s been impressed with the transformation of the Socceroos since current boss Ange Postecoglou took the reins.
“Ange grew up in AEK territory in Greece, he’s an AEK supporter so that’s why we’re doing so well,” Patikas joked.
“He’s changed the systems, they style, the boring play, they are beautiful to watch actually.
“He’s brought a lot of young players along now. Everything Ange has done has been positive.”
Looking ahead to the Greece games, Patikas is tipping both sides to play open, attacking football and entertain the fans in the two friendly fixtures.
He’s also looking forward to seeing a bit more of Apostolos Giannou, the current member of the Socceroos squad with a Greek heritage.
“If anyone is going to be close to [Mark] Viduka he looks like someone who could be that style….although he’s nowhere near yet,” Patikas said of the Guangzhou R&F striker.
“[Against Tajikistan] on his debut he was around all the play and set up a few goals. From what I saw he looks good for his first appearance.”
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