Interview with Georgios Spanos from Mineola Portuguese

From St. John the Baptist to St. John’s University to Mineola Portuguese, Georgios Spanos has accomplished a lot throughout his soccer career. Throw in some apprearences with the U.S. Youth National teams and and youth soccer with the East Meadow Soccer Club and you have one of the best players to come out of Long Island over the last several years. Read more

By David Harris

Georgios Spanos playing for Mineola Portuguese in the 2013 Joe Goldberg Indoor Tournament. Photo by Michael Anderer

From St. John the Baptist to St. John’s University to Mineola Portuguese, Georgios Spanos has accomplished a lot throughout his soccer career. Throw in some apprearences with the U.S. Youth National teams and and youth soccer with the East Meadow Soccer Club and you have one of the best players to come out of Long Island over the last several years. Recently, Georgios took the time to reflect on his career and share his thoughts about soccer on Long Island.

DH: How has the season been going so far with Mineola Portuguese in the LISFL?

GS: We have got off to a slow start because a couple key players that we rely on were injured in the fall so it has hindered our ranking. But we have added a couple key players to the spring so we should be on a path of rattling off some wins. It can be very difficult to get players to come and play every weekend so, we here at Mineola, try and will continue to push the brand forward. Develop a name, a legacy, and tradition where players want to play for the shirt.

DH: What led you to play for Mineola Portuguese and what does the club mean to you?

GS: I decided to play for MPSC to build a winning club and an environment where a club meets the community. I came to MPSC over six years ago and me and my best friend Marco Da Fonte decided to build the club from scratch. We saw that the club had the history and the passion to grow. With a couple key additions to our board (Mike Carlos, Danny Carlos, David Neves, Gabe Marques, Terry Uellendahl) we really put our heads together to try to build the Apple of soccer clubs.

We not only want to win with our amateur and youth teams, but also have a major component of freedom for each team to develop and grow how they want to. AND more imporantly build a club that is intertwined with the community. That is very important for us.

This club means everything to me, I have dedicated a lot of time to make it great and it is very rewarding not only to win a State Cup in 2011, but also to see our youth kids develop into top players. That is our future. The foundation is down for this club, now we have to tweak a couple things to make us more sustainable for the future.

DH: What do you think about the quality of the LISFL and how it’s helped you improve as a player?

GS: I dont think that the quality of the LISFL has improved me as a player, but I do think that the competition has gotten better over the last year. It is still behind the Cosmopolitan League, but it is a strong league and I am very happy to play here now.

DH: What teams did you try out for and opportunities did you have to play professional soccer?

GS: Growing up I had many opportunities to play overseas, but I had several imporant people and coaches in my life that had guided me on a great path for my development. They believed that I could develop just as good here in the states as overseas, so that is why I stayed. To be quite honest, looking back on it, I probably should have taken that opportunity. In my young teenage years I had chances to go overseas and play in the Anderlecht, AZ Alkmaar, and Ajax youth systems, but I stayed.

When I finished my college career, I stayed in school to finish my last semester becasue that was important to me. It was the right decision I believe for myself as opposed to playing pro. I have access to dual citizenship so I had agents also asking me to go to trials in
Spain and Greece, but I did not take them because I fould a career. There are a lot of uncertainties when you go overseas and I took a route where I can put my passions into a career. Although soccer is still ingrained into my soul and I try to play it as much as possible.

DH: What are some if your fondest memories from your days in college at St Johns?

GS: Some fond memories I had at SJU would be the finals in 03 vs Indiana in the snow. Getting onto the bus and seeing all of the support from our friends, families, and fans outside the hotel and then to see some of the faces of the seniors when we lost 2-1 and had most of the game. I’ll never forget that.

My senior year winning a Big East title was really memorable as we did it in style vs West Virginia and not much time on the clock.
For me the most memorable times were the practices and running sessions we would have, I feed off of doing things that no one else does. Working harder and knowing that I am going to wake up and run to the park and back made me excited. As a competitor, those are the best memories I have because when you look at a game its only 90 minutes, but when you look at how many minutes you train and run for that game it’s remarkable. Thats where your passion is, its when no one is looking.

DH: What did you enjoy the most about playing high school and youth soccer on Long Island?

GS: My fondest moments of high school and youth soccer would definitely have to be the traveling. I was very fortunate to travel the world becasue of soccer. The friendships I have built will last a lifetime and I am grateful for that. My godson, his father I met thru soccer and he personally trained me and my brother and now I have my godson in MPSC. Everything really does come full cycle. I have met some great coaches and trainers that have all helped me not only be the player that I am but the man that I am today.

The one thing that I will never forget though is me and my brother everyday would play in the backyard. Everyday until it was dinner, we played 1vs1 all day after school or the megging game where you would play 5 games up to 3 where you would have to meg the other guy. There is no magic recipe for success. It comes down to how bad you want it. If you want it bad, you will train everyday and play everday, inside the house outside the house. Play with a sock, it doesnt matter.

DH: What are your thoughts about the positive aspects of soccer on Long Island and the areas where it can be improved?

GS: I am not very optimistic about Long Island soccer right now to be completely honest. Kids do not touch the ball enough, nowhere near where they should be. We have a disadvantage with the weather over some other regions and I don’t think Long Island soccer is where it should be. If we want to be a hub for soccer development and produce great players, we need to be touching the ball more. Too many kids are spoiled, and want the best cleats or the best jersey, I am not in favor of this.

Parents are also killing their kids hopes and dreams because they interfere with their children to much. They give input for their kids when they don’t even know what’s best for them. An example would be (and I see this way to often), the child or player is playing poorly or does not do something right, does not get enough time, or someone beats him out of a spot, whatever the case may be. They
always blame the coach or trainer. Parents and players should instead be asking, "What do I have to do to get better?" and "How can I better myself to get the trainer’s attention?".

When I was younger and learning how to play soccer I will never forget this. I was having a bad day and I complained to my father once about another player, and he told me he never wanted to hear that from me again. He told me how do you accept responsiblity to help that player get better or to do as the trainer wants you to do.

The one positive is that soccer on Long Island is growing as more and more kids are playing and that gives us hope for the future.

DH: What advice would give to a young person on Long Island who plays soccer and wants to improve as a player?

GS: If I had to give advice to a younger player it is simple. You want to play professional or you want to get a scholarship for school and make your parents proud, then touch the ball every day. Take criticsm and understand what your weaknesses are and work on them.

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