Out of the Blue: Suddenly everyone wants a piece of Kiki Naumoff

After playing in the shadows of more established names like Alex Brosque, Marc Janko and Bernie Ibini for the most of the season, Sydney FC attacking midfielder Christopher Naumoff now looms as a major weapon for the Sky Blues as they take on Melbourne Victory in the 10th A-League Grand Final.

Naumoff’s presence bookended Sydney FC 4-1 Semi -final win against Adelaide United. The 19-year- old’s inventive play down the left wing set up Ibini’s for a finessed finish that led to the opening goal and the Young Socceroo finished off a neat one two from Terry Antonis to score the fourth goal that flew into the roof of the net.

 Naumoff may look back at Sydney FC’s 4-1 win that helped the Sky Blues to their first Grand Final appearance since 2010 as the defining moment of his career. While Sydney FC Captain Alex Brosque scored two goals, one which included a deft back heel, it was Naumoff’s breakout performance that caught everyone’s eye.

Affectionately known by his teammates as Kiki, a name that was given to him by his Grandmother, Naumoff agreed that his game against the Reds last Saturday night was one of his finest of this campaign.

“I definitely thinks it’s one of my best games this season,” he said.

“I was just playing with confidence and I just wanted to do the best I could for the team. Every player on the team performed really great on the night. It was a great night for all the fans and everyone who was involved with the club and we are really looking forward to the Grand Final and hopefully we can get the win.”

At 19 years of age Naumoff is one of the youngest players in the Sky Blues squad and his star studded show on Saturday night coupled with the fact that its Grand Final week means that the midfielder is in big demand. But Naumoff who is shy by nature, is taking this new found attention all in his stride.

“There’s always going to be media after and before these type of games,” he said. “I just try and keep a level head really, it doesn’t affect me too much I know what has to be done so I just try and go along with it, it’s good really.

“As a team we are coming down from off the semi-final from the weekend, there’s obviously a lot of excitement and it’s a new experience for me, but I ‘m also really looking forward to the weekend.

“Regardless if it was the Semi- final or Grand Final, I try to prepare myself the same way and try have a good game each and every time I go out on the field.”

During the three games played between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory this season there has been no victors at the end, which leads to Naumoff seeing both teams not carrying the favourites tag, heading into the Grand Final.

“I would say the lead up to the game, the teams are very even,  we’ve had three draws with Melbourne Victory during the season and you can’t really get more even than that.

“They’ve finished first and we’ve finished second, you can’t really set it up better than that, everyone is buzzing over the game on the weekend, it will be a sell out crowd and a great atmosphere which will be unbelievable and you can only look forward to those type of experiences.”

One of the major taking points of the Grand Final is the fact that the biggest game of the season will be played at AAMI Park in Melbourne which only holds 30,050 fans. But playing the title decider at a smaller venue doesn’t faze Naumoff.

“It’s unfortunate for the fans that miss out on the Grand Final because it’s such a great game. It really is out of our control and that’s the way that the A-League has set it out, that’s it played in Melbourne because Melbourne Victory finished first.

“For myself I’m not really bothered about that, it will be an amazing atmosphere at AAMI, it’s one of the best stadiums in Australia that I’ve played in.  I’m expecting a great atmosphere with both sets of fans being ready.”

Sydney FC finished the A- League season with an impressive away record, remaining unbeaten throughout the campaign, Naumoff says that this gives the Sky Blues an assurance that they can win going into Sunday’s game.

“I’m sure it won’t let it affect us that we are playing away from home. Our away form does give us a lot of confidence, you could say. During the season we weren’t looking at that stat too much. Now that we’ve gone the whole regular season undefeated away from home it’s definitely a positive to see that we can do the job playing away.”

Naumoff feels that it’s the attacking players with Grand Final winning experience that will affect the Biggest Blue of all come this Sunday.

“Melbourne Victory have great attackers like everyone knows, they have Besart Berisha who has experience in A-League Grand Finals with Brisbane, but we have players who have experience in Grand Finals as well.”

And even though Marc Janko the A-League’s leading scorer this season hasn’t scored in the last five games, Naumoff is keen to focus on the fact that the goals have been shared around by the other team’s attackers.

“It’s always what you look for in a team really, it’s not good to only rely on one player and we have a great strike force, anyone of us can be scoring the goals.”

Sydney FC suffered a mini a slump in the middle of the season and Naumoff puts the change in fortune down to the team’s belief in what they were doing.

 “We’ve had a lot of highs as well as lows throughout the season, the turnaround has been that we’ve patient with ourselves that it will work out in the end, as it has,” he said. 

“We didn’t try to change too much, we just worked hard every day out on the pitch and it’s worked for us.”

Post Asian Cup the Sky Blues brought in a couple of Senegalese cousins to bolster the squad and come Sunday afternoon he thinks they may have a big influence.

Jacques Faty and Michael Tavares are European players with a lot of experience overseas so coming to a club like Sydney FC it helps us as a team, they are great players and that can only be beneficial for the weekend.”

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.