At The End Of The Day
The hardman of Adelaide United’s backline in the A-League and Asia, MICHAEL VALKANIS has no regrets
I knew I made it as a player when I debuted for Iraklis against PAOK in front of 40,000 fans. I realised how much work I had to do to play at that high level. As a youngster, I saw PAOK come to Melbourne, I was at the canteen, then I saw these professionals come off a bus with the same bags and jackets and from that day onwards, I knew that I wanted to play overseas in Greece.
I was happiest when I was playing with Adelaide United. I was so lucky and I’m so grateful I was there at the beginning and to be an inaugural player at the end of the NSL. Everyone who was part of the club that year made something special happen, just to see how the club has grown, to be the first club to represent Australia in the Asian Champions League and the final. We might not have won Grand Finals, but we were there. Many thought the little town wasn’t going to be competitive, but we did well.
My hero growing up was Kenny Dalglish. I was a mad Liverpool supporter. They played the football that probably influenced the way I see the game today. They were playing a real group possession game and were one of the best teams in Europe.
The funniest thing was when I was playing for South Melbourne against Morwell. Kevin Muscat dribbled down the line from full-back, cut the ball back and I scored my first goal. We celebrated at the crowd. We didn’t realise the goal had been disallowed and the crowd was actually pointing at us to run back. I won’t forget it. The day football broke my heart was when I did my ACL as I was coming to the end of my career. I was 34, I might not have been able to come back because of my age. Credit to the club who believed in me and gave me another year, I was able to play 50 per
cent of that season and a Champions League Final.
My proudest moment was representing the Socceroos against Kuwait. I debuted with Travis Dodd and he scored. It was a great night because there were a lot of A-League players and people were concerned whether we could get the result, but we won 2-0. Lining up hearing the national anthem and thinking, ‘I’m playing for my country’. It was a boyhood dream come true.
If I could change one thing I would celebrate finishing first. I’m not a big fan of how it isn’t celebrated as much as winning a Grand Final in Australia. I understand the finals system and I like the excitement, but I think winning the Premiership is the most important.
If it wasn’t for football maybe I would’ve become a biochemist. Being Greek, I was expected to be a doctor or lawyer. I was good at school and I got good grades. I got an opportunity to break into senior professional football, so knowing I could make a career out of it, my mindset changed. I still went to university and studied biochemistry, so maybe that could’ve been a career.
Three words that sum me up Risktaker, hard-worker and a dreamer.
If you could have one wish I don’t think I can wish, I’ve got a beautiful wife, beautiful kids, fantastic parents and a great job. I think sometimes, when you wish, it suggests regret.
Right now I’m achieving a dream. In these last three months, an opportunity has come up with Eredivisie side PEC Zwolle and to be reunited with John van’t Schip. I thought it would’ve been impossible because an Australian coach going to Europe is difficult and Holland is a big competition.