Greece tempts George

By SFC Media time Tue 25 Feb International

Considering the countless aspiring footballers worldwide, national call-ups are a rarity. George Mells has the pleasure of two countries vying for his allegiance already.

Having already represented his native Australia at Under-17 level, Melbourne-born Mells has found himself juggling indigenous loyalty with the offer of donning Greece’s colours for 2014 UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualifiers.

After impressing for the Greeks in a two-nil friendly victory away to Ukraine in Loutraki, the youngster admits he is now dealing with the enviable dilemma of which country to continue with – a decision that is still open due to Mells only playing in friendlies for both nations.

“Greece emailed asking about my eligibility to play for them,” Mells explained to “I was lucky in a way that both of my parents have got Greek heritage, so it gives me that second option between Australia and Greece. I have backgrounds with both countries, which is a great thing for me.

“My parents were born in Australia, so there was enough for me to play for them, too. I can still play for Australia again because they’re all friendly games that I’ve played. I’m stuck in between who I want to play for.

“Australia was where I was born and where I grew up. You know the initiation and how everything works that way. Experiencing something else obviously keeps your options open. I’m undecided on who I’d rather play for but both have been great experiences.

“You kind of lean towards where you were born but, through playing in Europe, you get the honour of playing in the European Championships and better odds of playing in the World Cup. These are things that would benefit me as a player but, as a person, Australia would have to obviously be my first choice.

“It’s a tough decision that I’m still unsure on. It’s always an honour to represent any nation that you’re eligible to play for. It’s such a high level of football.”

Mells revealed that due to being a complete outsider in unfamiliar territory there was an initial struggle to settle, but any feelings of discomfort were soon dispelled through a football-related understanding, the Greeks’ impressive grip of the English language and a tablet video game.

“I couldn’t speak their language at all,” the 16-year-old admitted. “I picked a few things up from the Greeks. I picked up a few words that helped me out but most of the lads spoke quite good English.

“The coaches spoke really good English, so that helped me out. They all speak football in a way. You look and you learn and see how they do things.

“When I first got there I didn’t quite know what I was doing there. The other lads were just looking at me. Obviously they already knew each other and then there was me on my own, kind of standing away.

“I didn’t know they spoke English, I didn’t know them and it was a completely new experience. It left me in a bit of a sticky situation but once we got on the coach and got to the training facility it was great. All the lads started speaking to me and the fun and games started, as they do.

“I was playing a game on my iPad and the others all saw that it was Flappy Bird. They saw me playing it and they were telling me how they play it, too. It had only just came out there at the time. We then just started speaking off that. It was funny how it came about.”

It can take a number of experiences to ensure a player becomes fully rounded. Arguably, one aspect is the exposure to different styles of football around the world – something some either never behold or take years to do so.

While the midfielder has previously been accustomed to thousands watching him on the international stage, Mells conceded that such an attendance initially bred anxiety before his taste of technical European football with an aggressive edge.

“I think the European culture is different,” Mells reasoned. “The game I played against Ukraine for Greece was a lot tougher. There were a lot of fouls and a much slower tempo, whereas in Australia the tempo was still slow but it was a bit more tactical.

“However, the European game is more technical. They’re all different experiences that I can take on-board and use in my day-to-day life and when playing in Barclays U18 Premier League games.

“The manager told me I was going to come on at half-time. They split the team up between experienced and not-so-experienced players. I came on with a few experienced lads and some that didn’t have much experience.

“As I was getting warmed up and getting ready to come on I was nervous. It was quite a big turn-out in the crowd – a few thousand were there. That’s something I’m not really used to. I’ve played in front of thousands for Australia a few times but being in a different country was a big ask.

“I was very nervous coming onto the pitch but once I was on there, I felt comfortable. I felt really good. I think it’s because I enjoyed it – I was looking forward to it. If I was negative going into it then I wouldn’t have enjoyed it but I was very positive. I’d like to experience something like that again.

“We were up two-nil when I came on. That made the game harder to play as they were getting a bit ratty and bitty with us. They were kicking us. We held our ground and kept it to two-nil. I would have liked an assist or a goal. I was close to getting an assist but I was unlucky. Overall, it was a fantastic experience that I really enjoyed.”

Such is the almost-overwhelming pressure any form of debut can bring, young players can sometimes fail to perform to maximum level. Mells, a starlet who oozes confidence, didn’t suffer from such concerns and has reaped the benefits in form of a Euro 2014 Elite Round qualifier proposal from Greece’s U17 boss.

Despite it not necessarily being a certainty that he could be involved in May’s competition, the possibility is providing ample temptation for the youngster.

George concluded: “The manager spoke to me afterwards and said I did well over the days I had been there. I delivered the things he asked of me, which I thought was very positive.

“He said he was happy with me and that he hopes to see me next month for European qualifiers with the European Championships coming up. If that’s the road I decide to take then hopefully I’ll be involved in that.

“Obviously I don’t want to get my hopes up. It would be great. It would be fantastic to be a part of the Euros.”

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