Sydney United 58’s Yianni Perkatis scored a world-class goal in Round 15 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition that shone the spotlight on his talent for fans and spectators of the league.
While the 28-year-old is currently impressing in the NPL, his experience expands beyond that, with experience in Australia’s top competition, and overseas.
“Highlights in my career would definitely be representing Australia in the Under 17 FIFA World Cup, that’s definitely a highlight for me, winning the AFC Asian Champions League with the Wanderers in 2014 and winning the NPL season with United in a pretty dramatic fashion with the game against Marconi – I think that was part of the COVID season part one where I had just come out of out of Perth Glory,” Perkatis explained.
“Probably one of the biggest highlights was the debut match against Newcastle where we won the A-League minor premiership, and then playing two weeks later in the semi final against Brisbane Roar where Shinji Ono scored a left-foot chip that sent us into the final.”
While he’s had a taste of the A-League and professional football, Perkatis, like many NPL players, has struggled to stay in the top tier of football.
“It’s down to luck and being in the right place at the right time for a lot of people,” he said.
“Playing for Wanderers, I’d be lying to say it was a dream come true, because the Wanderers didn’t always exist and I was always a Sydney FC fan growing up because that was our local team.
“When the Wanderers were created in 2012 I knew it was the club that I wanted to represent.
It meant a lot to be involved, and to then get my first professional contract with them – I can’t describe what it did mean at the time.
“Then to be let go was very unfortunate, that was definitely a kick in the guts and that’s the setback that I had to deal with at the time.
“They’re memories that stay for a lifetime and I do cherish them, even though it ended on bittersweet terms.”
While unable to find a long-term place in the A-League, the NPL NSW Men’s competition has proven to be the perfect platform for the talent lost by the A-League, like Perkatis, to thrive in a talented and competitive environment with passion driving the players to balance work and football.
“There are definitely a lot of players that if given the opportunity would perform and excel within the A-League if not overseas,” Perkatis said.
“A lot of it does come down to the determination and the mindset of where they want to be and what they want to do in life.
“Work does get into the way of things and life does get into the way of things and people do weigh up their options whether they go into a full-time environment in the A-League or if they work and play football at the same time.
“I think if particular players and particular teams were given a full-time environment in the A-League, or whenever the ‘B-League’ gets created, there’s no doubt that we can challenge and we can compete in it.
“I believe there’s a good solid four or five teams in the NPL that definitely could compete week in, week out, given a full-time environment and training schedule because the talent is there, the commitment is there.
“We don’t train three or four times a week and work 40-hour jobs, if not more, to just play bad or not care about it.
“The passion is within everyone otherwise we wouldn’t have that talent and that competitiveness in the league.”
While Perkatis is giving his all to Sydney United 58, his hopes are still set on returning to the A-League if the opportunity arises.
“Football is a crazy game, you never know who’s watching, you never know who’s keeping an eye on you.
“I just try to perform the best I can for the club, for myself, for my teammates and make my family proud at the end of the day.
“I know if I take care of those aspects things will hopefully eventually come, and if they don’t, I know I’ve given everything that I have to the game and I can keep my head up high if it doesn’t happen.”
United 58 have been a heavyweight of the league for many years and the stability of the playing group has been one of their biggest strengths.
“It comes down to character,” Perkatis explained.
“You chop and change when players don’t work together or don’t work for each other, but we’ve got a squad that, on and off the field, we’re very tight.
“Everyone gets along very well and it’s a joy to be going to training, it doesn’t seem like it’s a mission or a chore, it’s getting together with a group of friends and kicking the ball around and enjoying it.”
This year the team struggled to find consistency early on and ultimately coach Joe Haywood, who was appointed during the preseason, stepped down from his position as coach, with former coach Miro Vlastelica stepping back in an interim position.
“Tom [Tomi Vidovic] left us early in the preseason to join the Wanderers – credit to him, he deserves to be in a position like that.
“We tried our hardest to make things work under Joe but unfortunately things that would normally go our way just weren’t going our way at the time.
“Obviously you don’t ever want to give up or you don’t want to be the reason someone loses their job, but that ended up happening at the end of the day which no one takes lightly at the club.
“Working back with Miro [Vlastelica] again, the tables have turned.
“We’re heading in the right direction now and everyone is getting back to the confidence levels & aspirations that the club deserves to be at, and wants to be at.”
Despite the lacklustre start, United 58 have picked up momentum in recent weeks and still have their eyes on achieving as much as they can in 2022.
“Finals are always a minimum,” Perkatis stated.
“Sydney United being the club that they are, even when we’re losing we still believe in ourselves.
“We still have confidence, we know what we’re all capable of, what we can achieve and we’ve all done it as a group before.
“We never ruled out making the finals because we know how much the NPL can chop and change.
“Previously we’ve gone through our slump and it’s just been a roller coaster over the season with results and how teams have performed and how we’ve performed.
“The main thing is that we’ve all grouped together, we’ve kept the belief even though we went through that struggle, and we’ve just worked hard to get ourselves out of it and there’s definitely still a very long way to go, we aren’t content with where we are at the moment.
“To say we’re in a better position than we were a couple of weeks ago, that’s great, but we’re definitely not in the position we want to be.”
While the club’s ambitions are clear, Perkatis’ ambitions are much the same, with a focus on doing the best he can for his club and hopefully a return to the A-League in the future.
“I’d love to score another one of the goals I scored on the weekend, if I could grab another one or two of them that’d be great.
“For me it’s all team goals, I’m just there for the team, I want us to win, I want us to do well, I want us to have a great [Australia] Cup run and get into the finals for the NPL and if we can win it that’s definitely the goal.
“Personally, it’s just to keep positive, keep working hard and keep performing well and doing the best I can for the team.
“I’d love to get back to the A-League if possible, but I’m enjoying my time now with United and we’ve got a great group that have been together for a long time now.”