First Eleven – Part One: Thanos Papadopoulos

6 a side football, the sport of Socca, brings us all together like nothing else on the planet.

The unique atmosphere of the matches, the World Cup tournaments, the spirit, the camaraderie.

It creates lasting friendships across continents, across language barriers, cultural differences and religions. It is the most inclusive sport in the world.

The world is in lockdown, in the grip of the worst global pandemic in a generation. Now, more than ever, we all need to feel a connection.

In that spirit, we can begin a brand new series. First Eleven. In which, we will take a leading figure from the world of 6 a side football and learn more about them. There is a twist, though, in these questions we will only be asking one about 6 a side football specifically.

Instead, in these 11 questions we will find out more about the person, and maybe we will find out we have even more in common than we think.

We have loads more of these lined up, while football is on hold, so we will learn about the whole football family.

Where better, then, to start than with the CEO of the ISF, Thanos Papadopoulos.

Right then Thanos. When you were little, which football team did you support?

From zero age till now, my team is …the one and only Panathinaikos FC. When I started following other leagues too, then I loved Liverpool FC too.

What was the first football match you ever saw?

My 1st match that I went as a fan to the stadium with my father was Greece – Luxemburg 3-0 in the Olympic Stadium of Athens, 30 years ago. I remember the whole experience. For me this was a huge thing, even if the opponent was not a big name!

And, growing up, who was your favourite player?

The all-time best striker of Panathinaikos, the Polish Kristof Warzycha (244 goals in 15 years for Panathinaikos). I am very glad that he came to Crete, in the Socca World Cup as ambassador of Socca.

Away from football now for a few questions:

I know you are busy with all sorts of things, but how do you relax away from the football?

My favourite hobby is cooking. The ultimate hobby for me!

You live in beautiful Greece, but what is your favourite place to visit?

In Greece, I have Crete as my dream destination. Out of Greece, as a basketball fan, since I was little kid I always wanted to visit Lithuania and Vilnius. Finally I have been there, on two occasions and I can say that this is a great place to go.

What is your favourite other sport apart from football?

Basketball and boxing.

What are you most proud of?

On personal level, I am proud when i make my friends, my family and my colleagues happy. On professional level when I manage to inspire my colleagues with an idea or a plan.

Football again, and the only question I’ll ask on 6 a side football.

If you could pick the best ever 6 a side team for you to manage, who would the players be (you can pick living or dead).

I will make my picks only from 6 a side football players, those that know the sport the best. Normally I would include 2 Greek players in this team, but finally I will choose to leave out the Greeks so that I am more neutral and less emotional!

Here is my best team:

  1. Denis Korshikov (GK) (RUS)
  2. Tigin Yaglioglu (GER)
  3. Marc Bafuidi (FRA)
  4. Rustan Ramazanov (RUS)
  5. Radu Burciu (ROM)
  6. Bartek Debicki (POL)

Thank God, they are all alive!

Obviously we are all in lockdown at the moment. What have you missed the most in the time off?

To hug the people that I love. This seems so small, but it is life-energising.

As soon as everything reopens again where is the first place you are going to?

I think I will go to Athens old city centre for my usual Friday night walk!

Last one:

Tell us one thing about Thanos that might surprise us!?

I know I will not surprise most of socca fans, but I can surprise all those that are not so close to this sport: Small sided football is the new generation of football. Now it is the most played sport in the world but in some years it will be also the most viewed.