The world of junior representative football is as illustrious as playing for seniors, but unless we have a vested interest in a team or country, we seldom get a proper glimpse into that level of football.
Olyroos midfielder Panos Armenakas, who recently signed with Zulte Waragem in Belgium, has had his fair share of international football experience at just 22 years of age. Born in the USA, he has played internationally since 2014, representing the Greek Under 17 side before changing his allegiance to Australia, the country which he calls home.
In speaking exclusively to Tribal Football, Panos expressed his passion for his country and his teammates and went on to describe the inspiration he has drawn from Socceroos past.
“I was born in the US but after a few months we left, I've got family over there but I don't consider myself American. I grew up in Sydney and spent time with dad's side of the family, so our occasions were all very Greek, but it was never really a hard choice for me I always wanted to represent Australia."
“I know some of the Olyroos boys really well we played together growing up. I went to the same school as Daniel Arzani and we're pretty close, and I've known Graham Arnold for quite some time we get on really well."
Despite being on great terms personally with manager Graham, Panos stressed the importance of playing regular football in order to enhance their chances of being selected for the Olympics in Tokyo. Consistent football was key in Panos choosing his next career destination amongst the uncertainty of this year.
“There was interest around the world, and I know some clubs from the A-League wanted me but it was important for me to stay in Europe. We'd get about 15 more games or so than the A-League which would keep us fresh for Tokyo."
“No one is assured of a place, especially considering Graham Arnold will have 3 overage players. 15-16 players will get called up. We're all pushing hard, Riley McGree moved to Birmingham, Daniel Arzani is wanting game time in Holland and he's pushing. Our job is to make it tough on Arnie."
As with any international squads, there are players that are idolised and made household names, some of which will naturally inspire the next generation of footballers. For Panos, two Socceroos stand above the rest for his inspiration. One an Everton great, the other tasting Champions League glory with Liverpool.
“Growing up it was always Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill. Tim I've met and I've gotten to know well, but my style of play is definitely like Harry's. He played attacking midfield or as a winger, his finishing was incredible, he had some great assists. I met him while he was playing at Liverpool and his ability was second to none, and I model my game a lot after his."