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Olympiakos starlet Kostas Rougkalas confident of Greece recovery

Rougkalas free 300x225 Olympiakos starlet Kostas Rougkalas confident of Greece recoveryGreece’s latest defensive prospect talks about the NextGen Series; controversial youngster Giorgos Katidis and why he believes Greece will recover from economic hardship.

Kostas Rougkalas is a Greek Under-19 international defender who recently skippered Olympiakos against Europe’s elite academy sides in the NextGen Series.

Rougkalas was pleased with how his team’s debut season in the tournament unfolded and acknowledged England’s participants as the most difficult opponents he faced.

“It was well-organised with very strong and competitive teams”, said the 19-year-old.

“It was our [Olympiakos’] first time in NextGen and it was an opportunity for us to showcase our talent to Europe. We managed to reach the last eight in our first participation and we are very satisfied with our course in tournament.

“The two English teams we faced [Arsenal and Aston Villa] were the toughest because they were played with such a high tempo – it was difficult for us to press them.”

Another Greek youngster made global headlines for all the wrong reasons over a fortnight ago. AEK Athens’ Giorgos Katidis celebrated a goal with a ‘Nazi salute’ and has since been suspended by his club and banned from the Greek national team for life.

However, Rougkalas, who has played with Katidis at Under-17 and Under-19 level, is adamant the former Everton trialist ‘didn’t realise’ what he was doing at the time.

“I believe Giorgos was trying to gain the respect of AEK fans through this gesture. His relationship with them wasn’t good at that time and he didn’t realise the consequences of what he did as he was doing it.

“If he knew that what he did was clearly a Nazi salute – making him appear fascist – I don’t believe he would have done it!”

High hopes

Having previously been involved in prestigious tournaments such as the UEFA Under-17 Championships, Rougkalas’ next career step is to represent and lead out his country at senior level – something that the defender would be ‘honoured’ to do.

“It’s already a great honour for me to play for Greece and represent my country. It would be an even bigger achievement me to reach the senior national team.

“Who wouldn’t be happy and honoured to be the captain of their country?”

Greek football has seen a decline in attendances and sponsorship since the economic crisis hit the country over three years ago. Players aren’t being paid for months on end and the biggest stars such as Vasilis Torosidis are fleeing the Super League.

Rougkalas himself is no exception to the severe austerity measures that have been forced upon Greece, although the Athens-based youngster holds the belief that the Mediterranean hotspot will eventually recover.

“Everybody in Greece feels the effects of the crisis including my family, my friends and myself.

“As far as sports are concerned maybe the crisis has affected the young players in a good way because teams have turned to their academies and are trying to build with their own young players.

“The competition between the teams is very low [in the Super League].

“But I am confident that Greece will recover soon”.

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