Midfielder Matthew Ntoumenopoulos is hoping his maiden National Premier Leagues campaign can provide a springboard to life as a professional footballer. 20-year old Ntoumenopoulos joined Inglewood United in late January and, following a handful of appearances off the bench, in recent weeks has commanded a first eleven spot.
For Ntoumenopoulos that is the best possible indication that he’s well and truly on the road to recovery from a serious knee injury that led to an extended stay on the sidelines. “It is truly amazing to be able to run out onto the field again with my adrenaline pumping ready to give it my all,” said Ntoumenopoulos, an Australia Under-17 international and former Perth Glory Youth player.
“My ultimate goal is to be a professional footballer and, in a way, it feels like I have had to start my career all over again. Prior to this year, I’d not played since October 2015 due to my knee injury. That gave me time to stop and refocus on my short and long term goals and the steps I have to take if I am to play football professionally.”
Ntoumenopoulos’ rise to prominence began as a schoolboy. After representing Australia at the Under-13 AFC Festival of Football tournament in Malaysia, the talented teenager spent three successful years at the Australian Institute of Sport and was a member of the Joeys squad for the Under-17 World Cup qualifiers. He returned home in 2014 to play for Perth Glory Youth.
Unfortunately, his football dream came to a crashing halt in October 2015 while trialling with A-League side Newcastle Jets. “As I turned away after a tackle I went down with intolerable pain to my knee which was later diagnosed as a ruptured ACL,” he explained. “And from that point on it was a battle against myself to make a full recovery, physically and mentally.”
“Recovery was definitely a roller coaster of emotions. Some days the road back to playing football at a high level seemed very far away. Thankfully, I had the close support of my family who made sure I was always in the right mental state. It’s been a long road but I’m pleased to be able to say I am now training and playing with a lot of confidence.”
Ntoumenopoulos is also grateful for the support and guidance of coach Taki Nicolaidis. “Taki has been very accommodating and patient when it has come to introducing me into games,” said the former Inglewood junior. “He has given me self-confidence and I can’t be more appreciative for being given the chance to play football under his guidance.”
“This year I’ll continue to test my limits, at training and in games, in the hope that I get back to my peak, physically and mentally. I want to give my all in every minute I play for Inglewood. I truly believe that with the group of players we have this season we can do something special and all I could ask for is to be part of that and contribute to this club.”
“Long-term, I would love to play in the A-League and to represent my country again, you can never get rid of the pride you feel wen pulling on the green and gold of Australia. I have been blessed to be given the chance to do this at Under-13 and Under-17 levels, however, it’s my dream to continue this at the top level of international football.”