Papas on his Euro dream
The former Melbourne Heart, Newcastle Jets and Joeys assistant has enjoyed a successful stint in India after moving to the sub-continent in 2012, where he has coached the country’s Under-22 national side and I-League club Pailan Arrows. In May this year he was headhunted to take over at top club Dempo.
The Whites are currently in ninth place in the 13-team competition with 10 points, seven behind leaders Salgaocar FC. Dempo has managed two wins, four draws and two losses so far this season and
Papas said he has recently had interest for coaching roles in Greece.
“It's always been an ambition of mine to coach in Europe,” he said. “I am hopeful to get there one day. It’s [Greek football] not an easy market to break into but having my Greek heritage is where the majority of interest stems from, plus still being 33 years of age is always interesting to most, as it’s not too common.
"In the future it's hard to say if something will eventuate but for the moment I'm only really interested in Dempo SC and building upon the work that has begun.”
Papas said his time at the Goa-based club has been a great experience.
“It had been a little inconsistent for myself as I had been away for both my Pro Licence for a large period of the pre-season and then had to return home for my visa, but gradually we are improving with still a lot of work to go to reach the level we aspire to,” he said.
“India overall has exceeded my initial expectations, I came here with a very open mind aimed at gaining international coaching experience as National U23 coach in the AFC Cup and also broaden my ideas surrounding the mentality of the Asian footballer.
"It has gone from coaching in an AFC Cup to having a very successful season keeping a youth team from being relegated in the top professional league, to now joining the biggest and most successful I-League team.”
Papas has overseen a large amount of player turnover in the Dempo squad, and brought in former A-League players Simon Colosimo and Billy Mehmet. The 33-year old has been particularly pleased with the displays of former Melbourne Heart defender Colosimo.
“It's not only been about adapting to the differences on the field but even more about adapting to all the obstacles off the field such as the travel, facilities, weather and areas we take for granted back in Australia, he has been credit to himself for maintaining his professionalism,” he said.
“Considering he is now in the latter stages of his career he has been great at ensuring he takes care of his body and has not missed a minute on the field and overall is a very positive influence for the whole group. Without a doubt he could still play at A-League level so we are fortunate to have him.”
Papas described Dempo’s start to the season as “average”, but remains confident his players will keep improving as they become more used to the style of play he is installing in his new team.
“Right now we need to turn our draws into wins and even though we are only four points off third spot we need to very quickly push higher up the ladder,” he said.
“I have confidence in the group and also the Chairman’s support is an added bonus because he sees the work going into improving not only the team but the whole club from an infrastructure point of view.
Papas says he has no timeframe on cracking European football as a coach.
“My only aim. and it is the same as when I began my journey, is to keep placing myself in the most difficult and uncomfortable environments and ensure that when my opportunity arrives that I am properly prepared,” he said.
“Any coach who has serious ambitions about a long-term career I really feel needs to serve a thorough apprenticeship which combines all different types of experiences because you get very few chances to get it right in this game.”