NT sides ready for cup classic

Darwin Olympic and Celtic FC are ready to make history as they battle for the Northern Territory’s sole spot in the FFA Cup’s round of 32.

Olympic, from the Territory’s capital, and Celtic FC, from Alice Springs, have never played each other and are both amateur sides.

The winner of the game at Darwin Football Stadium will book their place in the final 32, the first time a team from the Territory will reach this stage of the competition.

Olympic head coach Steve Lolias told FourFourTwo his side’s preparation for the clash had been good, after they accounted for Casuarina FC 7-2 in round six.

“We have focused on our own game and structure,” he said.

“The boys know what's expected of them and how much this means to our supporters and of course the rewards for winning on Saturday are huge.

“Wayne [Bodkin, assistant coach] and I flew to Alice Springs last week to see the Southern Zone final and I also have some prior experience with some of their players from coaching clinics. They look a strong organised side and our boys will need to be at their best to compete for the win.

“The FFA Cup is brilliant. It bring its own level of excitement to every game, the tension is right up there as every game you play is played like a final. It gives the smaller clubs a chance to pit themselves against the big boys and has the romance element that only a cup competition can bring.”

Darwin Olympic, who compete in the North Territory’s Norzone Men’s Premier League, was established nearly 50 years ago.

“We were formed in February 1967 by three players who approached John Katapodis to help them start a new team,” Lolias explained.

“John purchased the kit and balls and the club was born. The club won the Ampol Cup in its first year and haven't stopped winning since, amassing 78 trophies in 48 years. Some of the original players are still around the club today, my Dad is one of them and he comes to every match.

“Costa Paxinos first played in 1968 and he cooks a feed for the boys every Thursday night after training, so we are very much a tight nit family.”

Celtic FC were founded in the 1980s and play in the Southern Zone Premier League.

They have reached the seventh round after smashing Gillen Scorpions FC 5-0.

President David Brooks said his club will be the underdogs against Darwin Olympic.

“We don’t know very much about them at all,” he told FourFourTwo.

“We’ve never seen them play. We have very little idea, it’s all new to us. Most have never played in Darwin before. We’re going in I reckon as underdogs with nothing to lose.

“Our preparation has gone well. We had a 5-0 result in our last game, so you couldn’t wish for much better than that. Most of our team flew up Thursday so they will have virtually three days to acclimatise, as the weather’s a bit different.

“Everything’s gone to play pretty much, we’ve got no injuries, no suspensions. The coach has got a full squad to choose from.”

Brooks said Celtic FC, who play in the green and white hoops of the famous Scottish side, were established in the Territory three decades ago after another club called Rangers was founded.

“Many years ago, before my time, a couple of Scottish blokes started a Rangers team in Alice Springs, they were obviously from Glasgow,” he said.

“And someone in their wisdom started the opposite and they started Celtic. That was before my time, since I’ve been involved we only had juniors. I think back in the '80s we had a Division 1 team but since me and a few others started a Division 1 Premier League team in 2011.

“Since then we’ve been pretty successful.”

Brooks said Celtic FC were stoked to have gotten so far in the FFA Cup.

“It’s sort of blown our minds to even get to here to this stage,” he said.

“I think the game against Olympic will open the eyes of a few of the guys because it’s going to be very professional. To get through, we’d be beside ourselves. We wouldn’t know what to do. It’d be an all-new ball game for us.

“I reckon we have four guys in our team under 18 and it’s a chance for them to get noticed if we get through.”

Darwin Olympic assistant coach Bodkin said it would be mean the world to his club to reach the final 32 of the Cup.

“How could you describe it? It would mean the world to all of us, but especially our president Charlie Kathopoulis,” Bodkin said.

“He gives so much to this club, we would love the boys to do it for him. I think the most important thing this year is for the qualifying Northern Territory club to represent well and hopefully FFA will continue to allocate a spot in the cup to the Northern Territory.

“The buzz it has created has been great and it would be fantastic for Northern Territory football if that continued into the future.”