Making your professional debut is an incredible moment for any footballer, let alone a 15-year-old.
Melbourne City midfielder Nia Stamatopoulos became the fourth youngest player in W-League history and the youngest in Club history to make her debut when she was selected in Rado Vidosic’s starting line-up against Canberra United on Sunday.
With Matildas star Sam Kerr still holding the record at 15 years and 45 days, Stamatopoulos slides into fourth, surpassing Matildas international Emily Van Egmond.
Stamatopoulos’ footballing journey has been one of rapid growth. The youngster had only been playing the sport for six-months when she was scouted by the National Training Centre (NTC) while playing a game of Summer Sevens in Northcote.
Since joining the NTC as a 12-year-old, the 15-year-old worked her way up the ranks before becoming a regular starter in the senior squad, where she was then picked up by Melbourne City.
Reflecting on her debut, the midfielder has credited Head Coach Rado Vidosic and her teammates for her smooth transition.
“It was an incredible learning experience for me, obviously I need to keep working hard and improving, but overall it was a surreal experience and my teammates and the staff at the Club did everything to make me feel comfortable,” said Stamatopoulos.
“Everyone went out of their way to make me feel relaxed, but in particular Rado, who was incredible.
“Coming from the coach himself, his advice made me feel comfortable, relaxed and more confident in my ability.”
Despite only playing the game for three years, Stamatopoulos has worked tirelessly to prepare herself for this opportunity.
As a 14-year-old, the attacking midfielder would work in a confined space to hold the ball off two 18-year-old men before taking over 200 free-kicks to improve her set-pieces.
She might be small in stature, but Stamatopoulos rarely gets pushed off the ball and that’s a testament to her work ethic behind closed doors. Her preparation and dedication during pre-season has been elite, which may explain why she wasn’t as nervous as first thought ahead of her debut.
“I usually get nervous, but I didn’t have butterflies or anything,” she said.
“In my head I was nervous, but I didn’t feel it, it was more my mind telling me to be nervous.
“The most nervous I felt was when I saw my name in the staring XI in our pre-match meeting,” she added.
“Once the game started I was fine, you block out the crowd and you concentrate on your goals, forgetting about everything else.
“Obviously there are things that I could have done better and things that I need to improve on, but overall I was really happy with my first game.”
Surrounded by a number of international stars at City, Stamatopoulos will feed off her teammates, work hard and play her role as they push for an unprecedented fourth consecutive W-League championship.
Stamatopoulos and her teammates return to action this Friday night in a blockbuster double-header at AAMI Park. Don’t miss the chance to watch both our teams in action, get your tickets here.