Known as one of the success stories of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition, former towering Sydney Olympic defender George Timotheou has praised the former NSL club and the competition for playing a hand in his European adventures that has seen play for the likes of German Bundesliga giants Schalke 04 and now Belgium First Division side Zuite Waregem.
The 22-year-old stopper is currently back home in Canberra following the cancellation of the Belgium First Division season due to COVID-19 which resulted in Club Brugge winning the Premiership.
Having only made a couple of appearances for Zuite Waregem before the league was cancelled, Timotheou stated to Football NSW that he still kept in contact with Sydney Olympic as well as their progress in the NPL NSW Men’s competition.
“I built a very strong relationship with everyone at Sydney Olympic including the board and all the boys during my team there.
“We stay in touch a lot and when I’m back home, I like to go and watch them play.
“It’s an amazing club and I can definitely see why they’re one of the best in NSW.”
As for the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition, Timotheou, who spent the 2017-18 season playing with the Blues, said that it further developed him as a footballer.
“The NPL NSW Men’s competition was a great pathway for me to express myself and to get constant game time.
“It was a really good level as every team in the league was strong and every week was like a grand final for us.
“We did something extraordinary that year and every week we built on our last match.
“We gained so much confidence and showed everyone in the league a good style of football and had moments that I will never forget.”
It was Timotheou’s big move to German Bundesliga giants Schalke 04 in 2018 that really set the scene in announcing the former Australian youth international onto the European stage – an experience which saw him sign for the clubs reserve team initially before he made his senior debut against Stuttgart in front of 60,000 people.
“My time at Schalke was quite simply amazing.
“I can’t say anything bad about my experience there as it really was an eye opener into football in Europe as well as the lifestyle and culture.
“The club welcomed me like their own and for one of the biggest clubs in Germany, I can see why they have been so successful over the years.
“During my time there I learnt how physical the German league was and how it had evolved over the years.
“You look at every centre-back in the league and they’re huge, very well built.
“A lot of emphasis is on heading and being top strong.
“In saying that, the majority of clubs loved playing football and implementing a nice style of play in which there were various systems and formations.
“People often ask me how nervous I was and how scary it was when I made by debut for the senior squad but to tell you the truth it was kind of the opposite.
“I’ve been working up to this moment my whole life, preparing, doing all the right things so that when you do get a chance, you are ready.
“I was so focused and in the zone, I couldn’t even hear the 60,000 fans in the stands.”
Soon after his time in Germany, Timotheou found his way in Belgium playing in the top tier with Zuite Waregem.
“It’s been great at Zuite Waregem, Belgium is a beautiful country.
“The fans and everyone were very welcoming, unfortunately I did not get more of a chance to play in the competition as COVID-19 cancelled the league but I’m really looking forward to preseason when it comes back.”
COVID-19 put a dent to many of the competitions across the globe, Belgium being one of them, which was why Timotheou found himself back at home.
“It’s been very different and has taken a lot of getting used to as COVID-19 has changed many things.
“I can say that it’s given me a good opportunity to rest as well as spend quality time with my family and friends who I haven’t properly seen in the last two years.
“I have been in Australia the whole time the Coronavirus got serious here so I’ve had to follow the same self-quarantining rules as everyone else, but it’s been pleasing to see that restrictions are easing slowly.”
Apart from kicking goals on the field, the former Gungahlin United junior is set to be busy off the pitch as he is set to become a proud father in September.
“I’m extremely happy about this, I know it will be a very exciting time for myself and my partner.
“It will be amazing to be able to raise a child and spend quality time at a young age with the little one, something I cannot wait to do.”
Holding a dual passport thanks to his mother’s Greek roots and his father’s Cypriot heritage, Timotheou had some sound advice for the young rising talents coming through the NPL NSW Men’s system hoping to continue on with their footballing journey abroad.
“For any young aspiring footballers my message is that no matter how hard you think you’re working or how good you think you might be, there’s always someone doing that little bit extra than you, so keep that in mind.
“Yes we all have two arms and two legs and kick the same football but if you work hard and believe in yourself you really can achieve anything.”