Czech Republic-based teenager Andrew Paraskevas has endured the high and lows of playing European football after a tumultuous time in Cyprus.
In June 2017 Paraskevas was set to sign with Cyprus first division club APOEL after impressing in friendly matches against FC Spartak Moscow, FC Lokomotiv Moscow and Swiss giants Young Boys.
But just days before inking the deal, it fell through when the youth team coach that brought him to the club was sacked.
The sacked coach stuck by Paraskevas though and gave him a first team spot at his new club Ethnikos Latsia FC where the Heidelberg junior spent the next seven months.
In another bitter twist though, the lower tier Cypriot club fell into financial difficulties and the Melbourne-raised teenager moved to top flight Czech Republic club Banik Ostrava.
Speaking to FTBL from his new base in Ostrava, Paraskevas admits that he is enjoying the stability after the tumult of the last few years.
“Being able to play football in Europe is something I will never forget,” said the 19-year-old. “It has taught me so much on and off the park and taught me a lot about myself.
“I have signed a youth contract with the club. They pay for my accommodation, meals and provide money for other day to day living expenses.
“My teammates are fantastic players and nice people, but I have learnt that there are no friends in football and everybody is fighting for a position in the team.
“This motivates me to give 100% every day and leave nothing in the tank.”
Paraskevas is a natural left footed defender who is strong quick and a hard tackler and says the time spent overseas has taken his game to another level.
“It has helped me develop in the areas of reading the game better and to predict where the ball is going to go next,” he said.
“The standard of football is so much higher than what I experienced in Australia. I was surprised with how technical, fast and physical it is here.
“We are trained to move into the right positions, one touch passing and to close down the opposition faster and to never give up the ball.
“Even while tackling we are taught to try and turn the tackle into a pass rather than just kick the ball out.
“So overall Europe has just helped me sharpen a few of the technical things I needed to improve on in my game.”
There are currently over 200 Aussies playing abroad and Paraskevas says he moved to Europe because of the limited opportunities available in Australia.
“I have been fortunate enough to trial with both Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory youth teams during my time in Australia,” he said.
“For whatever reason I wasn’t selected, but it made me a better player and gave me an insight into what it feels like to be part of an A-league club.
“But ever since I started playing football, I always saw myself playing in Europe because that’s where the biggest clubs are.
“So naturally when the opportunity came, I took it. I want to improve as a player to make a name for myself, so that one day I am able to sign my first big professional contact.“