Spiros Economopoulos: From Wicketkeeper to AEK goalkeeper  

Spiros Economopoulos - From Wicketkeeper to AEK goalkeeper  Ouzo Talk podcast

The gravel football pitches of Akrata might be a far cry from the lush green of AEK’s stadium in Nea Filadelfia, but they’re even further away from the cricket grounds of Kiama in Australia – the unlikely place where former AEK and Greece goalkeeper, Spiros Economopoulos, learnt his trade as a goalkeeper… by playing wicket-keeper.

Mention the name ‘Spiros Economopoulos’ to any AEK fan old enough to remember their 1989 Championship, and they’ll all smile and fondly recall his nickname; “Mr Protathlima.” But it was playing Australia’s Summer sport in Kiama as a child that primed Spiro for his future in the yellow and black of AEK, where he would play alongside the likes of Dušan Bajević and Thomas Mavros, while playing matches against England, East Germany, Portugal and more during the 80s.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Ouzo Talk Podcast, Economopoulos recalled moving from Australia as an 11 year old – a decision that would set him on the path to among other things, an MVP award for his efforts in the 1989 season.

“It all started from cricket – I never played football here,” Economopoulos told Ouzo Talk.

“I only played tennis and cricket, and because I was very good at catching (from playing wicket-keeper), when I went to school in Greece they asked me; “what are you good at?” I said; “I’m good at catching,” so they put me in-goal.

“In Greece, everybody plays football in between lessons, so because I was new and I was the ‘Aussie kid’, they asked me. I was the non-chubby goal-keeper!”

For the 11 year old Economopoulos, football was a new discovery having not played at all during his time in Australia. But the young Spiros began watching English soccer on TV where he began to develop his love for the sport – and Manchester United.

As his love of the sport quickly grew, so too did his ability on the pitch. So noticeable in fact was his talent, that at the age of 13 a school friend would make an astute prediction about the then-budding talent.

“It’s really funny because when I was going to school and playing, and I started to become really good at it, I had this mate that we used to go to school together – he was an AEK fan,” recalls Economopoulos.

“I don’t know how, but he turned around to me and said; you know what? I think that one day you’re going to play for AEK’.

“I don’t know how he said that – it’s still ringing in my ears.”

The prediction wouldn’t just prove prophetic, it would have an almost immediate effect on the young Greek-Australian, who began playing goalkeeper for Akrata, alongside men – still at just 13 years of age.

By 17, Economopoulos had been scouted by AEK and left the gravel pitch of Akrata behind him, with Greek championship glory and international caps now written into his future.

Ecomopoulos goes on to recall his amazing career to Ouzo Talk, including his very first lower-grade game for the club against Olympiakos at a packed Karaiskakis Stadium. The Greek goal-keeping legend also gives his views on Tottenham Hotspurs Premier League coaching sensation, fellow Greek-Australian, Ange Postecoglou and much more.

Spiros Economopoulos - From Wicketkeeper to AEK goalkeeper  Ouzo Talk podcast
Spiros Economopoulos: From Wicketkeeper to AEK goalkeeper   5

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