Feature: Bentleigh's battlers ready for the biggest day of their sporting lives

November 11, 2014 5:38 am 

By Riley Beveridge

MELBOURNE, Oct. 10 (PNA/Xinhua) — In the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, semi-professional football side Bentleigh Greens – a collection of no-name battlers – are preparing for the biggest match in the club's 28-year history.

On Tuesday evening, the humble grassroots team will host the A-League's table toppers, Perth Glory, for a place in the final of Australian football's inaugural FFA Cup.

Clubrooms with no internet access, players with full-time jobs ranging from electrician to stockbroker and an income that rests largely on the club's famous souvlakis makes Bentleigh the unlikely hero of the competition.

But, in addition to ordering 350kg of gyros meat to feed the boisterous crowd on Tuesday night, club secretary Abraam Gregoriou is preparing for the biggest match in Bentleigh's history.

"There's no doubt about that," Gregoriou said.

"It would be great to have close to 3,000 there. It's just really the honor of being able to host such an event and we really appreciate the FFA allowing us to do so because it would have been a shame to have it at a more neutral venue."

The Greens are the only state league side still in the knockout competition after defeating fellow member federation clubs Blacktown City, Sydney Olympic and Adelaide City on their way to the semifinals.

But now, the team managed by former National Soccer League (NSL) forward John Anastasiadis, will face its first David v Goliath test as they prepare for Australian football's most in-form side.

It's the type of contest the tournament yearned for when the FFA Cup was created nearly a year ago.

"The boys can't wait for it and they just have this belief in them, they fear nothing," Anastasiadis said.

"When we started out in this competition in February, we never expected to get this far. It's been one hell of a ride."

Formed in 1986, the amateur team earned five promotions in its first nine seasons to become an National Soccer League mainstay.

However, since the inception of the A-League and subsequently the Victorian Premier League (VPL), Bentleigh has found the going a little harder.

Despite reaching four VPL finals, Bentleigh has never lifted the title. Therefore, the FFA Cup represents the Greek-Cypriot club's best chance of holding silverware aloft for the first time.

"We're just treating it as a normal week and the intensity of the boys in training is just incredible," Anastasiadis continued.

"For us, every game now is a cup final and if we can go one step further and beat Perth, it will be amazing."

But defeating Kenny Lowe's Perth Glory outfit is proving easier said than done for most A-League sides at the moment, let alone the minnows from Bentleigh.

Coming off an impressive 1-0 victory away to Central Coast on Sunday afternoon, the Glory returned to the summit of the A-League table.

A fortnight ago, they defeated the star-studded Melbourne Victory in the FFA Cup's quarter finals.

Boasting Ireland international striker Andy Keogh, who is valued at around 800,000 U.S.dollars, and Australian teenager Daniel De Silva, who recently agreed a 2.1 million U.S. dollars deal with Italian giants Roma, Perth comes to Bentleigh's Kingston Heath Soccer Complex as arguably the most fearsome opposition in the country.

Perth's wage bill unsurprisingly dwarfs that of Bentleigh's, who can only afford to pay their players as little as 175 U. S. dollars per game. But Bentleigh has a secret weapon in the form of a 3,000-strong crowd at Kingston Heath.

"It will definitely be different to what they are used to," Greens goalkeeper Alastair Bray said.

"It's a cup game so you never know what can happen. There's no pressure on us – all the pressure is on them – so we have nothing to lose."

Bentleigh will be hoping that familiar homely feel pays dividends on Tuesday evening, as the fairy tale cup run continues. (PNA/Xinhua)



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