In a land where ice hockey rules, four lifelong Greek-Canadian football fans — friends for over 20 years — have united to bring soccer to Toronto’s young people.
Nick Papalambropoulos, Markos Dimopoulos, Giorgio Trikkas and Johnny Giorgopoulos have been offering kids free memberships of their trailblazing club, Hellas FC.
Now some of their lucky players will be flying to Greece to play in a tournament against some of Europe’s top clubs.
Hellas FC is a fairly new youth academy and is the first of its kind to offer elite training for children and youths in Toronto starting from an age of five up to 21.
Greek Reporter spoke with Nick Papalambropoulos, operations director of Hellas FC, who told us there had been great interest in the club and the game. In less than four months, over 160 boys and girls have joined the four friends’ academy.
“Soccer is gaining popularity at an incredible speed in Canada,” says Papalambropoulos.
“We came together and thought it would be a great idea to give back to the sport we love and have played most of our lives,” he adds.
“We have been friends for many years, have played on teams together, against each other, and have come to a point in our lives where we feel we can help the youth grow in the game of soccer.”
“We felt bringing our Greek culture together would be a great way of doing it, although everyone is welcome. We love to promote our culture and would love to have it grow within our Greek community in Toronto,” Papalambropoulos tells Greek Reporter.
When we asked how often the kids train amid the harsh winter weather in Canada, Papalambropoulos says:
“Currently because of our frozen weather and snow, we are training indoors in a facility.
“The kids are currently practicing once a week for our free winter program funded by us, which is an evaluation program.
“When we select and place kids in the elite program they will be practicing 3-4 times a week, along with a game.
“Our focus is player development, and the more the kids are around the sport the more it will benefit them.
“Children in our developmental program will be playing two times a week, which is the goal for this coming summer. ”
Even more exciting is news that this summer Hellas FC will be taking part in the first International Liga Cup Tournament in Greece later this year.
The tournament in the Peloponnese village of Sofiko is for under-14s and under-12s and will between June 8-12. Players for this special tournament will be selected from the free program Hellas FC began in January.
Other teams from the same age groups taking part will be European giants Ajax, Feyenoord, Inter Milan and Udinese as well as Greek Super League side like Panathinaikos, Olympiacos and AEK.
Even more thrilling for these kids is that in addition to participating in the tournament, the executive of Hellas FC Canada has further arranged for the boys’ team to go on a tour of the Acropolis and parts of the Peloponnese.
Greek Reporter asked what the future holds for the club.
“We want to develop not only soccer players, but community leaders through sport and, with the help of sponsorship to provide the best facilities and opportunities for these children, the sky really is the limit,” says Papalambropoulos.
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