Most Americans (well, most soccer fans) tend to love the striker. The speed. The skill. The sometimes unbelievable goals. They are the quarterbacks of world football. The game maker.
Others tend to gravitate to the goalkeeper who, to be honest, is the man who will make or break the victory. The striker can miss as many times as he hits and he is still loved. The keeper lets one slide through and it’s over. So there is always passion surrounding the goalkeeper — hate or love. The game decider.
But the defender? Who really cares about the defender. The thuggish, uncoordinated players who have simply to make sure that the ball is never on their side of the field and who apparently are always to blame for the loss, no matter what. ‚We could’ve won if we had any defense!‘ The game losers.
But I have always been a fan of underdogs, and that feeling extends to the often overlooked players of soccer. And so it is that I have become a huge fan of Kyriakos Papadopoulos.
When I first saw Papa at work I compared him to a mosquito. Those winged creatures which seem so small in the big picture but who, by continuing to hover and attack over and over, can sometimes cause you more grief than anything bigger. In no way is Papa small, but his presence is often times overlooked. He appears insignificant and yet, more often than not, he is a mosquito, biting away at the opposition until they just can’t take it anymore.
The young Greek has played 16 of the 17 Hinrunde games, starting 15 times. He’s committed 47 fouls with only five yellow cards, no red. His opponents have an almost impossible time getting by the youth – usually. His eagerness to challenge for the ball has oftentimes come at a price, but he will learn in time that waiting for the right time is just as important. In the meantime, he will continue to fly around his opponents, constantly nipping at them for the ball, never letting up.
So far, he has only the one goal this season (the 5-0 massacre against Werder Bremen). Of course, that is, if you don’t count the beautiful header he made in the Hannover 96 game.
And don’t forget it was Papa who broke Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s nose.
Wikipedia describes mosquitoes: „Most cause a nuisance by sucking blood from vertebrates including humans….Accordingly, some authorities argue that disease-bearing mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals on earth“
Yep, that is Papa.
Jody Strauch is a university professor in Missouri, USA, with a huge love for Schalke 04. She occasionally contributes Schalke 04 stories to Bundesliga Fanatic, a blog for English-speaking fans of the Bundesliga. www.bundesligafanatic.com