Kenny Stamatopoulos is currently one of the Canadian national team’s top two goalkeepers. Currently under contract with AIK in Sweden’s Allsvenskan, Stamatopoulos has also played in Superleague Greece, Tippeligaen and Major League Soccer (where he played with Toronto FC). We spoke to him about the national team’s activity in Canada, the Canadian club game and the Road to Russia.
SSPC: Since the arrival of Floro, there’s been a youth movement within the Canadian national team picture but you’ve emerged as one of the few 30+ players to regularly crack the starting 11, arguably as joint #1 keeper with Milan Borjan, and have seen you caps more than double in the last two years when compared to your career prior. What kind of boast has this had on you at an age when most players are looking to hang up the boots?
KS: Benito has shown over and over again that he likes me as a keeper and believes in me. And to me, when a coach believes in me as Benito does, I feel like I play at my very best. There is nothing better for me to feel the confidence of my coach and my teammates behind me. I think it gets the best out of me. I believe now in my playing career I’m at the stage where I’m one of the leaders and role models for the young and up and coming national team stars. Which I believe Benito see the leadership role in me to help the youth.
SSPC: You’re about to start the last stage of qualification for 2018 prior to the hex. Canada’s most recent performances against the three teams it’s grouped with has resulted in a 0-1-2 record with 10 goals against compared to 2 goals for. What’s the mind set of the team going into this group?
KS: Going into this group I believe strongly that we could finish in the 2 top spots. In previous performances against these teams he didn’t have the coach nor the players that we have now. We have a good mix of older and experience players with young raw talent. And over the past two years now we’ve had quite a bit of games together to mold into a team that fights for each other.
SSPC: Recent results against these teams aside, many believe this is the strongest the Canadian team has ever been. Do you believe Canada will make it to the hex?
KS: I also agree this could be one of the best teams I’ve been part of with the CMNT. If I didn’t believe that we would make it to the hex, I wouldn’t be here and waste my time away from my wife and kids.
SSPC: The first game of this stage is being played in Vancouver, rather than Toronto, and I believe around 15,000 tickets have been sold for the game. Do you think the men’s team would benefit if more games were played outside of Toronto?
KS: There are advantages and disadvantages playing in different city rather than Toronto. Right now playing in Vancouver seems great. Like you said, they have sold a lot of tickets already and hopeful before the game starts everything will be sold out. We haven’t played in Vancouver since 11 years ago ( if I’m not mistaken), so I hope the city of Vancouver is excited as much as I am.
SSPC: At the Gold Cup this year, Canada hosted its first ever game. What was it like to play in it and would you like to see Canada have a chance to be the sole host of the tournament in the near future?
KS: It was a great experience to play in the gold cup on home soil. It gives you that upper advantage and motivation to play in front of your fans, family and friends. I really hope to see Canada to host the Gold Cup one day. It’s just about having big enough stadiums. I believe we are steps away from it.
SSPC:Your first professional games were played with Kalamata, the city of your birth. You later played with Toronto FC. Did those two experiences stand out more than others or you look back on them as no different than?
KS: Being a Canadian/Greek living in Canada I was so proud of being Greek and all I wanted at the time was to play in Greece. But now that I’m older and I think about it, playing in Toronto stands out. Playing at home In front of so many fans. In front of family and friends. Getting phone calls from old classmates and getting recognized on the street. All this and more meant more to my then any place I’ve played.
SSPC: Do you see yourself returning to Canada at the club level?
KS: I would love to come and play in Canada for one last time. I loved my time in Toronto and I hope that can happen.
SSPC: This season marked (correct me if I’m wrong) your UEFA competition debut when AIK took on Shirak, was that kind of bucket list moment?
KS: Yes you are correct. It was my first UEFA debut. I’ve always been around but never got the chance to play in a UEFA cup game. It was nice to finally cross that off the list.
SSPC: There’s been a lot of talk recently about a Canadian league launching as early as 2017. Do you feel a Canada only league is the right step for Canada and do you think Canada could support its own league?
KS: Most definitely I think it’s a great step for a Canadian soccer league. If it’s something that they are looking to do for a long term and plan it right. I think it’ll be very beneficial for Canadian players and for the national team. Every country around the world has there own league why shouldn’t Canada have one? I’m very surprised it hasn’t happened yet.
You can follow Kenny on twitter at @Kennystam69 and don’t forget Kenny and the rest of the CanMNT take on El Salvador on November 17th live on BeIN Sports on their road to Russia.