Original article by: By Dan Shalin For Sun-Times Media

Oswego’s Alex Alexiades enjoys summer camp in Greece

Oswego’s George Alexiades already knew his son Alex’s trip to a soccer summer camp in Greece had been well worth the money it cost. A phone call last week just confirmed it.

Alex, who is 12, had just resumed training with his local club, suburban-based Olympiacos Chicago, after spending a week in June at the youth summer camp near Athens run by parent club Olympiacos FC, the 39-time champions of Greece’s top division.

“When he got back to training here, some parents called to tell me how good he looked (playing) out there. It’s not a cheap couple weeks (to go to the camp). But the way I look at it, there is a return on investment with his ability,” said George, who learned about the camp from the folks at Olympiacos Chicago, which operates out of Park Ridge and Naperville and was the big club’s first North American youth soccer school.

Even before taking into account the improvement on the field, the overseas trip seemed a memorable excursion for the entire family.

It was the first time overseas for Alex and his mother Mary, and the family visited sites such as the Acropolis before spending a week on the island of Karpathos, where George’s relatives lived before coming to the United States.

Alex also got to meet soccer players from around Greece, Cyprus and Australia, some of whom he plans to keep in touch with via social media.

But soccer was the main reason for the trip, and Alex clearly benefited from the intense training and scrimmaging at Olympiacos’ ultramodern Rentis Training Ground, where the professional first team trains during the season.

The complex also includes workout facilities for Olympiacos’ other teams — volleyball, water polo and its Euroleague Champion basketball team.

“The facilities are great,” said Alex, who will be a seventh grader at Bednarcik Junior High School. “I really got better and gained a little more power on my foot, striking the ball and passing.”

The primary focus at the camp is developing the technical and mental side of the game. Hours at a time are devoted just to dribbling, others to passing and still more to shooting. Athletes also learn about tactical theories, fair play, nutrition and personal hygiene.

None of it should have been unfamiliar to Alex, whose club team in Naperville follows the same training curriculum as the Greek powerhouse.

Soccer players at the camp, which has been around for 15 years, also get a tour of the Olympiacos Museum and of the club’s 33,334-seat Karaiskakis Stadium, which was rebuilt for the 2004 Olympics.

The camp also gives Olympiacos’ scouts a chance to evaluate attendees, who come from around Greece and other countries. Vasillis Nanos, the Olympiacos Academy administrator, said five kids from the 2012 camp were asked to join Olympiacos’ Academy.

This summer, Nanos said kids attended from 30 different Greek cities. There also were five Americans, from Alabama and New Jersey in addition to the Chicago-area.

Evangelo Spartiatis, a Chicago resident who used to play for Olympiacos Chicago, attended this summer’s camp at the same time as Alexiades.

Unlike Spartiatis, Alexiades does not speak Greek. But he said the language barrier was a minor issue. He said several of the Greek kids at the camp spoke some English.

Coaches also let Alexiades go last in drills, so he could grasp the point of the exercise if he hadn’t understood the instructions. Of course, soccer is itself a bit of a universal language.

However, Alexiades noted that many of the kids wanted to talk about a sport that has become popular in Greece — basketball.

“A lot of kids asked me about the Chicago Bulls,” he said.

George Alexiades said he was impressed by the way the camp was run, pointing out that he is already making plans for his son to return in 2014. Next year, he is hoping some of Alex’s teammates from Olympiacos Chicago also will attend.

“They worked hard to make sure (Alex) was getting the best out of the training and they really impressed me with their facilities and organization,” George said. “I think we already have a couple (other families showing interest for next year).

“(After the program) Alex’s excitement level was immeasurable. For me, (whether or not to go back) is not really a decision. It’s just part of what we’re doing now.”

How to Join Olympiacos Chicago

Olympiacos Chicago is having supplemental tryouts and open spots for the 2013/2014 season on both it’s Park Ridge and Naperville locations.

Please email at info@olympiacoschicago.com for more details or call at 847-722-4840.