SOCCER

Hilton College keeper Costi kicks like a Colt 45

THE 16-year-old Hilton College boy Costi Christodoulou further underscored a blossoming  reputation in the World of Soccer with his selection less than 24 hours ago for the SA U17 team of 20 to do battle in the COSAFA U17 Cup that takes place in Mauritius from 19 to 29 July, having just completed attending the national camp of 32 players.

Contacted by KZN10.com Thursday, Costi underlined the significance of this event: “The COSAFA U17 Cup tournament is of immense importance as it doubles up as a qualifier for the Continental Cup, with the winners of COSAFA progressing to the Tanzania 2019 African Youth Games.”

Constandino “Costi” Christodoulou was one of the first KZN10.com player features (see Hilton College Page or Soccer Page). My first reaction was, what a modest yet confident and intelligent young man. Constandino understands the difference between the assertive and aggressive personality. Costi is definitely not the latter. He is most definitively the former.

And my initial instinct then –  that the sky is too restrictive a limit for this Hilton College Soccer diamond in the making – was reinforced in a number of later (unscheduled) meetings – on a cricket Saturday at Hilton College and a rugby Saturday at Maritzburg College.

Training is something Costi has never been shy of. I watched him in a gruelling workout with outstanding Maritzburg United goalkeeper coach Arthur Bartman a few months ago and he matched – and outperformed – the four considerably older shot-stoppers alongside him.

That memory is still vivid. Just to be in that set-up (beginning last year at the age of 15 for goodness’ sake – a standard 7 boy in us “oldie’s” parlance) as a grade 9 boy in 2017 clearly indicated this was a special talent, but it was the confidence, the “ownership” of the goalmouth that particularly struck me.

I watched Costi for the better part of an hour – having initially intended to pop in to the Maritzburg United training ground adjoining the Harry Gwala Stadium for 5 minutes in order to give Costi a copy of a national magazine, in which lay a feature article I had written on him.

Well, as mentioned above, those 5 minutes extended to the point where, when I next checked the time, I was already late for another appointment. That’s what exceptional talent does to a sports fan – it locks you in.

Over to Costi:

“Thank you Sir, I am once again honoured to be on KZN10.com. My football career continued early this year when I was selected for the SA U17 national team to play against Botswana in 2 international friendly matches. However, this did not happen and we proceeded to play matches locally in South Africa with the camp still being very important and useful in our preparations for the upcoming COSAFA Cup.

 

Grade 10 Hilton College first team goalkeeper Costi Christodoulou is no stranger to international competition.

“In March, I was granted the opportunity to travel with a KZN Select team to Barcelona and Madrid in Spain. This would prove to be an experience that I will never forget. We played 3 matches, winning 2 and losing one, whilst also having 2 training sessions with local academy coaches. We would visit the Santiago Bernabau as well as the Camp Nou.

(Costi, I said to self: ‘Self, I would give anything to be at those cathedrals of soccer one day – so keep Reaching for the Dream, Self’).

 

Every goalkeeper will confirm that the aches and pains after a tough match are real. A relaxing massage followed by a great meal and blissful night’s sleep is the answer.

 

Back to Costi: “Arguably my highlight of the trip was being able to watch Lionel Messi score a hat -trick against Leganes. This was certainly a tour that not only benefited me from a football perspective, but also allowed me to broaden my outlook on the world and explore new cities.”

Costi is also a strong Hilton College U16A centre and opens the U16A bowling too

“I would proceed to jet back to South Africa in order to participate in the annual Independent Schools U16 Rugby Festival hosted by Hilton College. I missed our first game against St John’s which we won comfortably won and proceeded to play the following two matches against St Benedict’s and St Alban’s – scoring over 10 points in each game – to help my team to an unbeaten festival. The domestic season proved to be full of ups, downs and memorable moments. My U16A team managed to do the double over Kearsney, get a huge win on the road against Pretoria Boys’ High and a victory against DHS.

 

Opponents give away kickable penalties at their peril when Hilton College points machine Costi Christodoulou is on the field.

“My season, however, was cut short with two weeks to go as I received a concussion in the second leg of the Kearsney fixture with 5 minutes to play, bringing an end to what was an enjoyable and memorable 12 weeks of rugby.

“Hilton College have continued to support, help and guide me in my pursuit of becoming a world-renowned goalkeeper. They have continued to give me time off school in the mornings in order to attend all Maritzburg United first team sessions, which has ultimately allowed me to grow in leaps and bounds under the careful guidance of Fadlu and Maahier Davids and goalkeeper coach Arthur Bartman.

 

Outside the popular Fleur de Lys Club, adjoining Hilton College’s pristine Jack Hart-Davis Cricket Oval: Costi Christodoulou as a grade 9 in November last year about to board the U15A cricket bus to Michaelhouse. Photo Jono Cook

“Mr Tony Shuttleworth the Hilton director of sports, has been 100% behind me in my training and work programmes, ensuring that I don’t fall behind, and ultimately allowing me time off from school sport in order to compete at the highest possible level. This, however, has all been possible due to Mr Paul de Wet, the director of academics at Hilton College, as he has helped ensure that my academics stay at a high standard and my average stays in the 86% to 90% range. He has been instrumental in allowing my growth in football to transpire.

 

Costi might be a shot-stopper but he’s always on the lookout for turning defence into attack through an accurate throw.

“Then, as already mentioned, I was called up to the national U17 training camp in preparation for the COSAFA U17 Cup in Mauritius from 19-29 July. As I said earlier, this tournament is of immense importance as it doubles up as a qualifier for the Continental Cup, with the winners of COSAFA progressing to the African Youth Games, which take place in Tanzania next year.

“These are steps and goals that must be achieved if we are to qualify for the World Cup, to be held in Peru in December 2019. The squad of 32 is now a team of 20 and we depart for Mauritius on July 15, South Africa being drawn in Group B alongside Zambia, Mozambique and Lesotho.”

Costi, KZN10.com wishes you nothing but the best in this next chapter of your soccer journey.

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