Xanthi FC kicked off their new season with a draw against Apollon Larissa on Sunday evening.
The match was Xanthi’s first fixture in the Greek second division.
The game concluded with a score of 1-1.
Greek-Australian businessman Bill Papas, who is also president of National Premier League side Sydney Olympic, was recently appointed as Xanthi president.
He is determined to bring Xanthi FC back to the first-division and is also hoping to use the team as a platform for Australians to make it in Europe.
“We’ll be working very hard to get them straight back to the top division by putting the right foundations in place,” Papas told The World Game last year.
“I’ve found myself very frustrated with the Australian football landscape. The A-League certainly doesn’t present too many opportunities for young players these days to progress to top leagues,” he added.
“So for me, it was a question of ‘how do I connect young players with a pathway to a career in the professional game in Europe?’. Bringing in an Australian contingent only amplifies the ambition to provide that platform.”
The team is under the guidance of former Perth Glory head coach Tony Popovic, and former Western Sydney Wanderers academy head Arthur Diles and Zeljko Kalac.
Last year, Socceroos midfielder Josh Brillante left Melbourne City for Xanthi FC and told the Shim, Spider and so much Moore podcast in November that he has found adapting to life in Greece much easier with his countrymen around him.
“Straight away from my experience in Italy, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. You’re changing your whole life, moving across the world and the football world in Europe is so different – it’s dog eat dog,” Brillante said.
“So to be able to have Zeljko, Popa and some of the Aussie boys it has made it nice and a little bit more comfortable. You can speak to someone that’s from the same place as you, same language, that makes it easier for sure.”
Xanthi has only been relegated to the Greek second division due to a points deduction penalty for ownership irregularities, and is traditionally a first-division club which, at its peak, competed regularly in the UEFA Europa League.
Papas believes an influx of Aussie talent and expertise can springboard them straight back into the Greek Super League, contending for titles and European spots, and bring in extra revenue through transfer fees if those players can attract interest elsewhere.
“We have a great youth talent pool here in Australia that is wasted, and it doesn’t know where to go. We want to prove [that] very quickly through recruiting some A-League players and progressing some youngsters overseas, and certainly now we have the means and the vehicle in Xanthi to be able to demonstrate that.”
Xanthi FC will play against Ionikos FC on Wednesday, January 20.