Asteras proving to be experts at producing top Greek talent
They may not be the biggest team in Greece, but their academy is having a huge effect on the development of the country’s football. Asteras, a relatively modest club located in Tripoli, continue to produce players of real quality, nurturing some of the best talent in the Super League. AGONAsport takes a closer look.
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Just take a look at 18-year old Anastasios Douvikas, the teenage striker who is making a name for himself in Tripoli. Born in Athens, he initially joined the Panathinaikos academy when seven years of age, but he decided to transfer to Asteras five years later as to give his budding career a boost. After displaying his capabilities with the Asteras Tripolis youth teams, Douvikas was handed his debut this season in a match against PAS Giannina, in turn becoming the seventh youngest player to turn out for Asteras.
When glancing at his statistics, a mere two goals and one assist in 20 appearances certainly doesn’t appear particularly impressive, but with a player like Douvikas, you have to take into account the bigger picture. Having progressed through the ranks in Tripoli, Douvikas slowly gained the trust of boss Savvas Pantelidis this season, playing a grand total of 539 minutes in the domestic championship. He scored a stunner too, pulling off an acrobatic scissor-kick at point blank range in a 4:0 victory over Platanias at home:
Probably, at this moment in time, Douvikas is maybe the only Greek player born in 1999 ready to hold down a first-team spot in the Super League. On the European stage, the forward will receive a chance to show what he’s capable of in the UEFA Europa League this summer, but in March, he issued a statement of intent with the under 19 Greek national team. In the elite round of UEFA Under-19 European Championship qualifying, Greece came third in a group with Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, but Douvikas was a shining light, registering three goals in as many games, including two against the Czechs.
Douvikas is the next in a growing line of players to create a reputation with Asteras, notably following in the footsteps of Konstantinos Fortounis, Anastasios Bakasetas and Dimitris Kourbelis. Fortounis, the 25-year old Olympiacos playmaker, is a product of the Thrylos’ system, but his first taste of top flight football in Greece came with Asteras Tripolis. On the books of the Tripoli outfit between 2010 and and 2011, the attacking midfielder competed in 24 league games, even hitting the back of the net in a fixture against arch-rivals AEK Athens. A fan of Fortounis, Kaiserslautern took him to Germany in July 2011, although the Greek would return to Olympiacos in 2014 and is now an Ethniki Omada regular.
Unlike Fortounis, fellow attacker Bakasetas began his footballing days with Asteras, promoted to the senior team in the 2010/2011 season. In the end, Bakasetas was shoved out on two loans to Thrasyvoulos and Aris Thessaloniki, but he did participate in 42 championship games in Tripoli, catching the eye with excellent showings and four goals. Nowadays, he is a key man for AEK, incidentally scoring the two golden goals which brought the Greek title to Nea Filadelfeia in the decisive 2:0 triumph against Levadiakos at the Olympic Stadium:
Moving towards defence, flexible midfielder Dimitris Kourbelis was born in the Arcadia region, naturally entering the Asteras academy. Loyal to his roots, Kourbelis played in a large 89 Super League games for his local club, but in December 2016, Athenian giants Panathinaikos coughed up 500 thousand euros to tempt Asteras into selling. In the 2017/2018 season, he was one of the few Panathinaikos players to receive any praise, using his leadership characteristics to drag the Greens through a traumatic year. He is expected to move abroad in the near future.
Antonis Tsiftsis (goalkeeper), Georgios Kyriakopoulos (defender), Giorgos Antzoulas (defender) and Panagiotis Tzimas (midfielder), alongside Douvikas, are all rated as seriously promising prospects currently in Asteras’ set-up. The secret behind the success in Tripoli? Asteras boast three football pitches next to the Theodoros Kolokotronis Stadium, five blocks of flats are owned by the club for the academy players to live in, the correct physical/psychological support is in place and the medical/coaching staff are experts at their jobs. It’s not easy to produce high quality players on a regular basis, but Asteras make it look like a piece of cake.