He’s a fan favourite in Tassie with loads of talent and a ‘giant’ name so it’s fitting that this youngster from Canada is coming up big for Devonport City in the Westfield FFA Cup.
Meet Niko Giantsopoulos, the Devonport keeper behind his team's run to an unlikely spot quarter-finals in the Westfield FFA Cup.
The 22-year-old was the Strikers' hero in their 1-0 round of 32 win over the Lambton Jaffas, pulling off three incredible saves in the dying minutes to preserve his side’s lead.
In a match played in driving rain and on a water-logged pitch, the agile Giantsopoulos somehow kept the rampaging Jaffas at bay showing great reflexes to keep the ball out from point-blank range.
“That’s what the goalies are there for. If they aren’t there to make the big saves when there needed you might as well put a pylon in the goal,” a modest Giantsopoulos told www.theffacup.com.au.
“If you watch the game I was only really called upon a few times. I did pretty well to make those saves when they were needed but the guys in front of me and the whole team have made my job pretty easy.
“It feels good when the big games come and the big moments come that I’m able to show my worth and give back to the team everything they’ve given to me.”
Under-fire from a desperate Jaffas attack in those frantic few minutes, Giantsopoulos said the key to his heroics was simply remaining composed.
“I like to take it a minute at a time. If I look too far ahead you get caught up in the moment,” he said.
“The funny thing was the scoreboard was actually wrong. It said only 40 minutes had gone but once it hit the 40 minute mark we were actually already [in injury-time] and I wasn’t aware of that so that probably made it a bit easier.
“I knew we were going to sit back the last 10 minutes or so and just try and absorb the pressure. I knew the shots were coming and I just made sure I was in the right position and try not to lose my focus.
“The weather wasn’t doing us any favours but that’s where you have to be extra cautious and make sure the footwork was right to make the saves.”
Giantsopoulos is in his first year in Tasmania and has become a real crowd favourite at Devonport.
Born in Canada, he spent the last four years playing college football in the US while completing his college degree in sociology.
While he had offers to play with various clubs in the US second tier, the chance to come abroad and be a regular started with the Strikers proved too good to pass up.
“I have an agent back home who got me in contact with the president of Devonport, Rod Andrews, and the club was really keen to sign me,” Giantsopoulos explained.
“I had a couple of teams in America in the second division USL (United Soccer League) that were interested but those were more for back-up positions. I wanted to get game time straight away, I’m still really young and I need more experience.
“The opportunity at Devonport was for a starting spot…I felt it was a good fit for me both team wise and the opportunity.
“I’m here on a one-year deal. When I came I viewed it as a way to get my foot into the Australian market, see if I can get exposed to a team in the A-League or just another NPL side on the mainland where the competition is a bit stronger so.
“The exposure through the FFA Cup is huge for that and it has shown already and in the NPL finals series when we go to WA, it will put not only me but the rest of the guys on our team on a bigger national stage and hopefully we’ll get some exposure and maybe get recognised.”
Devonport’s not only won the League and Cup double in the Tasmanian NPL but also become the first side from the Apple Isle to reach the last 16 of the Westfield FFA Cup.
PS4 NPL Victorian powerhouses Bentleigh Greens head to Valley Road on Tuesday night with a spot in the last eight up for grabs.
“The team is buzzing but I think the whole community is really getting around us as well. Not just the town of Devonport but all of Tasmania,” Giantsopoulos said.
“It’s great to draw another home game, the crowd was unbelievable, it was probably one of the coolest and best atmospheres we’ve all played in.
“We’re excited and I think we’re going in with confidence. Obviously the team we drew is a very strong side but you have to go into any game with confidence. Everyone wants to put out our best performance and we’ll see what happens.
"If you’ve watched the Cup, especially this year is proved that anything can happen.”