Australian midfielder Meni Haralampopoulos is experiencing the rollercoaster of professional football in Greece.
Haralampopoulos, who was born and raised in Adelaide, left South Australian NPL club West Adelaide to join Greek Football League side Acharnaikos FC in August 2016.
After breaking through at Acharnaikos, the 25-year-old signed for Apollon Larissa in December last year after financial problems hit his former club.
Haralampopoulos admits his time in the European country, which originally started with a trial at Iraklis FC, has been a real eye-opener.
“An agent saw some footage of me playing and organized a trial for me at Iraklis, which at the time were in the Super League in Greece,” the right flanker explained to FourFourTwo.
“The trial went successfully and I was offered a contract. However, as I was on my way over to Greece I heard of the club’s financial difficulties, and this led to the agent advising me that it would be better to sign for another club.
"Of the clubs (that were) interested after hearing of my trial, I signed for Acharnaikos who were a second division club at the time.
“I spent just under a year and a half at the club and learned a lot about the mental and physical demands of professional football, up until the club withdrew from competition earlier this season.”
Haralampopoulos made 14 appearances for Archanaikos last season and then four this season before the club’s money problems started.
“The situation at my old club was a very big learning experience,” he said.
“I try to see the positive in everything, and what was positive about the situation at my old club was that it helped me build the resilience to focus on my own football development and playing football, and that professionalism is in the attitude of the player, rather than the situation that player’s club is in.”
The Australian is contracted to Apollon Larissa in the Greek second division until June. Haralampopoulos feels he is thriving at the new club after the instability at his former employer, where players went unpaid.
“Apollon Larissa, as a club, is completely different from what I experienced at Acharnaikos in terms of the facilities, the off-pitch support given to the players by the club, and the stability of the environment around the club and the team itself,” he said.
“It is a club where the sole focus of all the players and staff is to maintain the highest of standards at all times in all aspects of the club environment, and the levels of performance in training and matches, as is expected professionally in European football.
“I’m really enjoying it there. The competitiveness of the players and the intensity of training is unrelenting as everybody is always fighting for a spot.
"As I arrived as a new player I was on the end of some very uncompromising tackles but by the end of the first week it was me up-ending the established players and earning acceptance on and off the pitch, leading to me being selected in the match day squad from my very first week at the club, for a game against Aris, one of the biggest clubs in Greek football.
“The environment around the club inspires me to continue to work hard every single day and to continually improve as a footballer. There are no distractions and everything is focused on football.”