Stefanos Athanasiadis, the international PAOK striker, talked exclusively to the website of the Super League regarding his feelings about PAOK: "Everyone knows that PAOK is everything in my life… I will always be grateful to the fans for their support not only towards me, but to the whole team as well." At the same time, he talked about the elements that need to be improved: "If you don't improve in football, then you stay behind," and also talked about how he feels when he scores in Toumba: "When everyone in Toumba chants your name, you feel like flying and when they jeer at you, you feel like being stuck to the earth…"; he also talked about how it feels to be one of the team captains: "When you realise you are good at this and that you can progress, this becomes your dream… And you need to have faith to fulfil your dreams." The full interview:
Question by Giorgos Ntokos
Do you believe that PAOK can qualify to the Europa League round of 16?
I believe that these last few years PAOK has developed a European attitude, achieving great wins and qualifications. We qualified over Fenerbahçe, Tottenham, Dinamo Zagreb, Rubin Kazan and we looked CSKA Moscow, Udinese, Ajax, Schalke and Metalist in the eye... We keep winning away matches and also have positive results in Toumba. No one can take us lightly. Of course Benfica is a really great club and is the favourite here, however many things will depend on the condition of the two teams at the time.
Question by Giorgos Panagiotou
What is your goal for this season?
I avoid setting global goals and there is no meaning in repeating that PAOK must always set the highest possible goals. No one is thinking about finishing the campaign in the second place, and everyone enters the pitch to win. We will see what we have achieved at the end of the season…
Question by Antonis Goulas
How did you feel the first time you played for PAOK?
The feeling the moment I entered the pitch was unique… I tried really hard in order to achieve this. Following the end of the match, I felt a great responsibility. This is when you realise that getting to the A team is not the end. The hardest part is to remain a part of this team. And this is how I still think of the whole thing.
Question by Pantelis Mouzakidis
When playing in PAOK academies, did you ever believe that one day you would be among the starting 11 players as well as one of the team captains?
When you are really young, like I was at the age of 8 when I joined the academy, the only thing on your mind is to play football and to play for PAOK. Later, when you realise you are good at this and that you can progress, this becomes your dream… And you need to have faith to fulfil your dreams.
Question by Leonidas Koutsouridis
How do you feel when you score in Toumba and you hear the fans chanting your name?
"Everyone knows that PAOK is everything in my life… I also know that the fans have more demands from the players coming from the academy since these players are aware of the special characteristics of the club. When everyone in Toumba chants your name, you feel like flying and when they jeer at you, you feel like being stuck to the earth… However, when you are a professional player, you must be unaffected by both positive and negative feelings. I will always be grateful to the fans for their support not only towards me, but to the whole team as well.
Question by Apostolos Anthopoulos
What are the negative elements in a professional player's life? Also, how do you feel when you go through an off period? What do you do to get over it?
Veteran players I know and respect keep telling me that being a footballer is the best occupation in the world! I listen to their opinion and it is funny talking about sacrifices in Greece today. It certainly takes a certain way of living, but you gain many things, not only money, but also love and feelings that we should be grateful for. The negative elements come when you do not progress, when you do not give your 100 percent on the pitch, in the matches and during training. This is followed by insecurity and being jeered at… This is your hardest period and you are afraid you might lose everything you have worked for. I personally try not to get stressed even when I do not play well. I try harder during training and I keep my faith.
Question by Nicholas Tzioumakis
What elements should you improve in your playing style, in your opinion?
Everything... When you don't improve in football, you get left behind.
Question by Marios Economou, Maria Roditis
Are you thinking about completing your career in PAOK or would you like to take an extra step in your career and play in another European championship?
I do not like thinking about things like that at the moment. I am blessed to be playing for PAOK...
Question by Giannis Gkaliouris
What is the most important goal you have scored and why?
I cannot tell my goals apart. The goal I scored against Tottenham is of course important, as was the opening goal I scored in Tripoli during the play offs last season where we had to win. All goals give life to a striker!
Question by Theofilos Tsaltabasis
Do you believe you are up to the competition between the Greek strikers in order to be part of the roster of the Greek National Team that will participate in the World Cup?
I love the Greek National Team and my country and I would anything to be there. I know that Mr Santos has more or less depended on other players who have the advantage and I do not let myself get carried away. Besides, the most important thing for me is to improve my display and return to my best possible performances. I do not think of something more.
Question by Nikos K.
What is the meaning of your tattoos to you?
Many people have judged me and I respect everyone's opinion. Most tattoos mean something to me but they are also a way to express myself.
THE WINNER OF THE DRAW FOR THE SIGNED SOUVENIR BY STEFANOS ATHANASIADIS, OFFERED BY FC PAOK, IS MR THEOFILOS TSALTABASIS.