The soccer career of Haris Stamboulidis is the stuff that sports movies are made of: After winning the 2013 title with Melbourne City’s youth, he went to study at Columbia University in New York, then ended up signing a professional contract in Greece.
Once there, he played college soccer with Columbia Lions where he won an Ivy League Championship and played in the NCAA Finals. In the off-season he played with Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids Under 23 team, where he gained more experience.
It seems that after playing at a higher level, the 22-year-old Greek Australian decided that professional soccer was the way to go. So, with only a few exams to go in his economics degree, he put the books aside and tried to pursue a professional contract.
In July, Stamboulidis signed with Greek club Aris Thessaloniki FC. Coming from Greece’s second division (Football League) after spending a few painful years there, the Aris owners were determined to build a good team and never relegate again.
With a bunch of good transfers, an experienced coach — Spanish Paco Herrera — Aris stands at the top of the Super League along with giants Olympiacos and AEK Athens, all with three wins in the first three games of the season.
Speaking to Australia’s ftbl.com after Aris’ first two official games in the season, Stamboulidis said: “Although I played in six of our nine practice games in Holland and Greece, I have not managed to play any minutes in our two first league games, but training has been going well and I am in a good space.”
Competition in Aris is tough, as the Thessaloniki team has a top-notch roster. However, Stamboulidis is happy in his new home and believes that with hard work he will play eventually. Furthermore, he believes that Australia’s National Team coach Graham Arnold will notice him.
“The only certainty is that everybody is now watching and all I can do is be prepared for any opportunity I may earn, whether that be with my club Aris FC which is my first priority or with the Greek or Australian national team,” he told ftbl.com.