Φώτης Παπαδόπουλος: ο αγαπημένος φίλαθλος του Σύδνεϋ Ολύμπικ

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Φώτης Παπαδόπουλος: ο αγαπημένος φίλαθλος του Σύδνεϋ Ολύμπικ

Γράφει ο Γιώργος Μπλιόκας / George Mpliokas

Two weeks ago, I was at work when the phone rang.

“Ελα βρε Τζόρτζ, have you heard anything? Τι νέα από αυτούς;”

It was Fotis Papadopoulos.

“Τίποτα θείε, μα ‘φου τους ξέρεις.” It was the middle of COVID, and Sydney Olympic barely remember to feed their fans any crumbs of team-related information, even at the best of times.

Just a few months earlier, when I first heard of Fotis’ illness, I hit the phones and the social media accounts.

I managed to gather some well-wishes from current Club Captain-in-limbo, Jason Madonis.

“That’s o-right,” he said in agreement, when I passed the word on to him.

“Ο Τζείσον είναι good boy, και δικός μας παίκτης. Παικταράς.”

Fotis was a legend of the Club. I knew him all my life, and I would see him just about every Sunday. Either at Leichhardt, or Belmore, or on away days.

But it wasn’t until I volunteered as the team’s Media Manager that I became familiar with his story.

Back in 2012, Sydney Olympic was on a high. After more than 5 years out of the National League, the Club had just won the NSW Premier League the season before – against Sydney United, at Belmore, in front of more than 10,000 spectators. Hope was in the air.

One night that April, the Club hosted a cocktail party at the Hellenic Club in the city to celebrate the launch of Vasilis Vasilas’ book, ‘The Giant Who Never Awoke’ – a history of the Club in its Pan-Hellenic years.

One of the Club’s first stars, the late Sotiris ‘Soto’ Patrinos, was invited to speak that night – a famous 1962 photo of him taking on APIA Leichhardt’s Filippo Bottalico was emblazoned on the front cover. But the next three, whole-page photographs immediately afterwards all featured Fotis Papadopoulos.

I was stunned. How could it be that one of the usual gang, the typical γέροι I had watched hour after hour of soccer with in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, be in fact rooted to the very origins of the same, 60 year-old team we both watched every week?

I was humbled by Fotis that day.

He defined the ultimate supporter. He was a part of the history of Sydney Olympic, since before it was Sydney Olympic. He played a few brief years in Pan-Hellenic’s Division 2 squad, travelled the country to watch the team play, was bestowed with life membership and was genuinely respected by the people around him. My own inadequate football skills aside, I could never match him.

His was a crystal-clear example of why not to judge a book by its cover, a lesson I will surely keep for the rest of my life.

Speaking to him in the final few months of his life, there were good days and not-so-good days.

But I was so inspired by the simple fact that another someone was keen, not just to talk about Sydney Olympic, but to talk to me about Sydney Olympic. That being nearly three times my age didn’t matter. That there wasn’t actually any football on didn’t matter. That all the heartache and fatigue that goes hand-in-hand with being a Sydney Olympic supporter didn’t matter.

That being in the fight of one’s life didn’t matter.

Fotis Papadopoulos endured it all. So whenever he called, I would pick up the phone. Even at work.

Eternal be his memory.

VALE Fotis Papadopoulos (1934 – 2020)

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