Strathfield Strikers FC really have a gem in 20-year-old club volunteer Angelica Georgopoulos.
The young gun quite simply lives and breathes football on a day to day basis literally.
Whether it is playing the world game, refereeing it, coaching it and on top of all this, looking after her beloved club which is her home away from home, Georgopoulos really is a volunteer every other club dreams of having.
But it is her love for the Strathfield Strikers FC, who are part of the Canterbury Districts Soccer Football Association, that has made her transition into being a true avid volunteer so easy to enjoy.
“Strathfield Strikers FC is basically my second home, if not my first.
“I’ve been playing at Strathfield my entire life, 11 years to be exact and I started volunteering at Strathfield Strikers FC at 15.
“I would spend most of my time being an extra hand, helping out wherever I was needed at the canteen, field set up and helping to organise the U6s and U7s MiniRoos.
“At 16, I was a young referee coordinator and helped my sister run the young referees program- a platform to allow our younger Strathfield Strikers FC members to also get involved in the club. This became a great platform to allow our younger members to think about becoming a Black and white referee.
“In 2017, I noticed our club had excess and old stock of kits, we intentionally were going to throw them out or send them overseas. I connected with a local charity called KitBag for Kids Australia, where they collect donated, second hand or unused football items such as boots, balls, bags and jerseys and send these to rural parts of Australia where clubs and schools cannot afford uniforms for their kids.
“In 2019 I was elected as Junior Vice-President and still hold this role today.
“I think this made me the youngest executive committee member in the CDSFA, but I guess that the great thing about being a volunteer in football is that age doesn’t mean a thing. If you’ve got the ideas, the passion and motivation towards helping your community, nothing can stop you.
“In fact, volunteering in football made me realise I wanted to work in football. Particularly developing young girls to achieve whatever they set their mind to, whether its football or not.
“Volunteers can never get enough credit and funny thing is they never do want it.
“It’s a pretty incredible thought that you could be coaching, mentoring and guiding a future Matilda or Socceroo.
“The term ‘volunteer’ needs to be changed to leader.
“From making executive decisions, field-set ups, coaching, managing, refereeing, ground officiating or even handing the fairy floss at presentation day, you’re the first taste of football and lets be real, its so much more than that.
“You’re really the face of community spirit, friendships, sportsmanship, teamwork, problem solving and togetherness.
“Volunteers are leaders that represent the game far more than you realise.”
Very wise words spoken by a football lover who will no doubt leave a mark on the game.
Asked when her love affair with football commenced, it was as a nine-year-old.
Angelica really had no choice, growing up in an Australian-Greek household, football was the only thing that mattered in the Georgopoulos family.
“I officially started playing club football at 9 but football had always been around and was a huge part of my upbringing, whether I liked it or not.
“Especially with my Greek family roots, football is essentially part of our culture and what really brought the family together, except when Panathinaikos and Olympiacos were playing, that’s where our unified family divided.
“I wasn’t a huge fan of football at the start, in-fact you could probably say I despised it. I was pretty sporty as a kid, I did swimming, netball, gymnastics, bike riding and was a pretty decent runner.
“Both mum and dad really valued team sport, they had started my sister in football at 4 years old she absolutely fell in love with it except they had a bit of trouble trying to get me into football. I was definitely a stubborn child.
“Looking back, my parents really saw the potential of girls playing football before it was even ‘normal’. I remember watching my sister play at the age of 7, she was the only girl in her under 9s team, I vividly recall twenty-two tiny 9 year old’s chasing the ball on a full field before they introduced the mini-fields.
“I remember one early Sunday morning game, I had stopped playing my Nintendo on the sidelines because I heard the crowd going wild. The goal was open and my sister was lining up a cracker shot but she completely missed it and her shot went to the side, it was a complete utter sitter.
“I was horrified to witness my sister’s shot. I remember turning to my mum and dad and seeing their mouths had dropped to the floor at that point and said that even I could’ve gotten that in! I want to play now.
“I remember the look on my mum and dad’s face, finally she wants to play.”
If you have not realised already, Angelica is quite simply football obsessed so it was only natural that she along with her family were left distraught when the announcement that football was to be temporarily suspended due to COVID-19 hit the headlines in March.
“You can say that again, to say I lived at Strathfield Park is an understatement.
“I think I nearly thought about setting up a tent one weekend.
“Most of my football friends have secretly enjoyed not having to do conditioning workouts on a Tuesday night or wake up on Sunday to play a match, I can’t say I’m the same.
“There’s an empty feeling these days waking up on a Sunday. Not having to eat my pre-match Sunday brunch, no kit waiting for me to be put on, no ground official vest in sight and no footballs lying around the living room.
“COVID-19 has definitely made me realise how much I’ve taken things for granted. I never realised how much I love watching my community play.
“I miss the cheering sidelines, I miss the smell of the BBQ, I miss seeing U6s miss-kick the ball and get back up, shrug it off and try again and I even miss complaining about standing at a cold park on a Saturday morning!
“Community football is where the heart of the beautiful game is, most people would say football takes up their weekend.
“Football makes my weekend.
“COVID-19 has certainly enabled a new learning experience for me. I’ve been really fortunate enough to still coach football at my local girls high school. But it wasn’t exactly the most conventional way either.
“I’ve learnt the art of coaching via online Zoom! This has been incredibly challenging, yet a surprisingly visionary way of coaching in the near future.
“Waking up at 6am to coach my girls before their online classes who I give credit to for standing outside in 12 degrees and replicating their screens.
“Since coming back from a Women in Football course held in Manchester this February, I’ve realised how important it is to self-reflect and to learn as much as possible. It was almost fitting that COVID-19 would take over our lives and force me to really live out to this philosophy.
“I’m studying my third year at University completing a bachelor of Advanced Business Leadership majoring in sports management and really trying to embrace knowledge I learn in every unit. It’s amazing how much you remember when you try see the benefit of what you’re learning.”
Back to the family being football crazed, everyone in the Canterbury District Soccer Football Association as well as Strathfield Strikers FC know that there’s no one more obsessed for the game than the Georgopoulos’.
“Yes! We’re renowned as ‘The Georgopoulii’.
“Football is a family affair, it’s where we really connect.
“It started when I began to play up a few grades in my sister’s U14’s team. My dad even started coaching that year so naturally my mum became the manager.
“Our family team effort resulted in our living room becoming a sanctuary of football and still is.
“To this day, we have Grand Final winning footballs encased in glass, Strathfield Strikers FC jerseys framed on our walls with signatures of all the girls, whiteboards with names written on magnets and trophies galore filling up our cabinets.
“Football is a serious business in the Georgopoulos household we even had to ban football being spoken at the dinner table it gets that intense.
“But if where not investing our time into the team, you’ll be sure to see the Georgopouli at Strathfield Park.”
All this from a 20-year-old? Wow.
All we can say is thankfully Angelica and her family are part of our wonderful football family, a sport that really connects everybody in every possible way especially at a volunteer capacity.
Football NSW is celebrating National Volunteer Week acknowledging the amazing and wonderful support our football family receives from our generous volunteers who continually dedicate their time in ensuring our game continues week to week.