Greece bid to poach Aussie youngster Stamboulidis

Little-known former Melbourne City rookie Haris Stamboulidis has become the latest in a long line of Australians to be courted by rival nations, with Greece keen to snare the dual nationality midfielder.

Haris Stamboulidis

Haris Stamboulidis Source: Supplied

Stamboulidis, 21, has spent time with AEK Athens and is now on the books of MLS side Colorado Rapids, having since departed City three years ago.

He is taking an unconventional path to the top, combining football with economic studies at New York's Ivy League Columbia University.

But he has already made two appearances for Greece's under-19s and is firmly on the radar of their Under-21s, though his dream is to one day line up in the green and gold of Australia.

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The No.6 - a part of Melbourne City's National Youth League winning team four seasons ago - was in contact with Olyroos coach Josep Gombau before he quit to take over at Western Sydney Wanderers.

And while proud to play for the land of his lineage, Melbourne-born Stamboulidis said: "My heart lies with Australia, it's just a matter of whether I can get the opportunity.

"The Greeks are still interested and one of the biggest honours in my career has been to represent Greece.

"But the reality is I just feel closer to Australia."

Earlier this year, Stamboulidis made his move with the Denver-based Rapids, featuring for their under-23 team and lining up in a friendly against the USA where he faced up to the likes of Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic.

"That was cool, playing against the USA and also Trinidad and Tobago," he added.

"It was an experience to come up against pros ... it was a matter of discipline and staying focused.

"It is a big leap to go from where I am now to a professional environment.

"But having seen and been in that environment it to showed me that it is possible.

"With my studies, I'm learning things I can take on to the pitch.

"Once the opportunity comes I will be ready to take it with both hands," added Stamboulidis.



Though he could have persevered with City, Stamboulidis has embraced taking a road less travelled in his pursuit of a professional career.

"I possibly had a chance to play in the A-League but I've taken another route and have learned a lot and matured a lot," he declared.

"My ultimate aim is to play in Europe at some point. I trained under (former Greek national team star) Stelios Manolas at AEK in 2015, and he was interested in keeping my there at that point."

One of his mentors is former FC Barcelona treasurer and board member Xavier Sala-I-Martin, now also a world renowned economics professor at Columbia University.

"He is my economics growth and development teacher and was sharing with me how Sergio Busquets, who is one my favorite players, faced many challenges as a young person," he said.

"He had to find a way to mature and that was through the pitch, playing and being responsible.

"I feel as though I can develop with this mindset of being a player who can always lead and be accountable as Busquets is.

“Right now I am focused on helping Columbia Lions win our first National Finals appearance in the NCCA tournament since 1993 and to get to the next round after Friday's game in Virginia.."


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3 min read
Published 16 November 2017 at 6:16pm
By Dave Lewis