A recent sit-down with CBC sophomore Spiridon “Niko” Karidis to discuss some of the steps he’s taking to become a professional soccer player, a dream of many young men and women here in St Louis. Niko’s father is a former professional soccer player with Panathinaikos FC who moved to St Louis in 1994 post-soccer career to pursue a degree at SIUE and ended up settling here, eventually starting Juventus FC (on the eastside) before joining his former club in establishing the PAO Soccer School and related Academy programs here in St Louis.
Niko’s development began here, following a common path, in this case YMCA/Park District programs. At age 11, with the advent of Juventus FC, Niko continued his development under his father’s tutelage. It has continued with the transition to PAO Soccer Schools where he competes with the U17 Academy team that competes in the Missouri State Cup and select College Showcases.
Expanded opportunities came early when at the age of 10 he first had the opportunity to train in Greece with Panathinaikos FC and their Academy youth. He has since returned for several additional sessions including a four month stay last Summer. There are eight or nine players from the 1998 age group he has trained with the past six years who have been signed to professional contracts at this point.
A pair of additional opportunities have exposed Niko to different systems as he works to develop his game. CBC Dutch Touch, headed by Terry Michler, took a small group of players to Holland over Spring Break this year that allowed Niko to compete against, and under the tutelage, of Dutch coaches.
He also just returned from IMG Academy where he competed in the Florida State Cup. Following the High School season this Fall, Niko is actively considering attending the IMG Prep School Program beginning in January to increase his training level.
Steps that are all targeted to joining the professional ranks. Niko recently got his drivers license and as you can see in the photo below, his ride is as unique as his skills. Check out the audio interview link below to hear more directly from Niko.
I reached out to Terry Michler at CBC to get some feedback on his player and one of the captains of the Cadets this Fall.
Niko has a very mature approach to the game and to his development. He has high aspirations and matching ambition and ability to reach his goals. Niko has previous experiences that have helped him to better understand the process of player development and advancement and he has learned from each if those opportunities. Niko has some nice choices to make concerning his future in soccer. He is also a great kid who you want to see succeed.
You can follow Niko at @Niko_lodeon
Finally, here’s a photo of Niko with his father Nicholas from February, when Niko was enroute to Florida to compete with an IMG squad in a College Showcase at the facility.
Good Luck PAO HSB RDA player Spiridon "Niko" Karidis at the IMG Cup-College Showcase in Bradenton, FL! pic.twitter.com/81Ne8Yjd5p
— PAO St. Louis (@paosoccerschool) February 27, 2014