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Rise of soccer popularity prompts opening of new EY academy

Children are all smiles participating in a program put on by Power Soccer at Toronto City Sports Centre. -COURTESY

Children are all smiles participating in a program put on by Power Soccer at Toronto City Sports Centre. -COURTESY

With the 2018 FIFA World Cup approaching and Toronto FC playing at home for the championship of Major League Soccer on December 9, interest in soccer is rising as never before in Canada and East York.

That can be seen not only on local school and community playgrounds, most of which now include a soccer pitch, and in the increasing number of tournaments and house leagues across the east end, but also in the popularity of clinics and schools, such as Power Soccer in Leaside, which employs professional-level coaches to help youth develop skills through programs, camps and even one-day clinics on PD days.

The sport is particularly appealing to parents as it not only develops both large muscle and fine motor skills physically, but being a team game teaches co-operation and other social skills.  It’s also relatively inexpensive for a child to participate in soccer compared with other heavily equipment-based sports such as football and hockey, making it much more affordable for families of a wider income spectrum.

Training and skills development pays off, as demonstrate by ten-year-old Presteign Elementary School student Roussos Nikolakis.  The young future star, who was a featured participant at a press conference in November put on by the East York Hall of Fame at Rise & Dine eatery on St. Clair Ave. East, is part of a Canadian all-star team heading to Greece in April to take part in a tournament for 12 and 13-year-olds, so is clearly playing well above his level.

Nick Papalambropoulos

Nick Papalambropoulos -STAFF

Now an East York restaurant owner, in conjunction with local coaches with high-level certification certificates, is making it even more attractive for children to get involved in the game by offering an introductory free skills development program for kids 5-14 this winter to promote the new Hellas FC Soccer Academy opening in January.

Nick Papalambropoulos, 30, says he grew up playing soccer in the local East York Minor Soccer league and benefitted from tutoring in the sport by people like Liam Power, who these days runs the popular Power Soccer academy program based in Leaside.

“I’ve loved soccer all my life and I want to share that with today’s kids by providing an affordable way for them to participate,” says Mr. Papalambropoulos, who holds a D level coaching certificate from the Ontario Soccer Association and is working to upgrade to the C bracket.

The owner of Legends Sports Lounge at 774 Danforth Ave., Papalambropoulos has supported teams through sponsorships over the past several years and was asked by Euro-certified coach Georgio Trikas to join him as operations director in the new venture, he told East York Chronicle.

Power Soccer 036Papalambropoulos says the new academy arose from and is aimed at the local Greek community in East York and Scarborough but that “kids don’t have to be Greek to take part!”  He says he also hopes that the new academy will be able to spawn a house league to begin play this summer, for fees much less than what are currently being charged by other area leagues.

The free skills development program begins in January and Papalambropoulos expects it to culminate in organizing of four teams of players of the under-12 and 12-14 age groups to participate in the first-ever five-day LIGA Cup taking place in Greece this coming June.

In addition to Papalambropoulos the academy’s coaches include others with Ontario B level coach certification, while Mr. Trikas has a UEFA coaching license, which is fairly rare in Canada.

“I think we can organize this for less than $500 per player,” plus air fare, he said, “and for that they’ll get a guaranteed four games, tours, meals and accommodation and exposure to the true professional competitive experience.”

The tournament will involve teams from Greece, Italy, Portugal, Serbia and England and “some of our coaches have contacts with these European teams and for scholarships as well, so it’ll be a good environment for a young player of promise to be in,” he said.

For more info about the free winter program visit the academy’s website at www.hellasfc.ca or their “Hellas FC Toronto” Facebook page.  Papalambropoulos can also be contacted at 416-848-4986.

-Gary 17

 

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