Catching up with Royals’ star striker Yianni Siafakas
By Mo Hussain, Sports Reporter
When referring to a sports star as the “Greek Freak,” many would usually point to reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, at Douglas College, that title exclusively belongs to Douglas Royals men’s soccer star Yianni Siafakas.
Siafakas, PACWEST’s 2019 gold medal player of the game, has had quite the interesting journey leading up to where he is today. Growing up in Athens, he discovered the sport of soccer at the age of three thanks both to his parents being soccer players along with being raised in a continent where soccer has a massive influence. From then on, his love for the sport grew as he aspired to take his passion as far as he could.
As a teenager, he played for Greek soccer clubs Apollon Athinon and Triglia Rafinas, and was persistent in scratching and clawing his way up the ranks. But after a three-month visit to Vancouver (where his mother was born) and witnessing the Greek economy continue to deteriorate, Siafakas decided that it was best for his future that he depart Greece after high school and move to North America.
He was offered full-ride scholarships at prestigious universities such as Georgetown University and the University of Pittsburgh but was insistent on finding an opportunity to play soccer in Vancouver because of the proximity to his family. After he and his agent went back and forth with some of the post-secondary institutions in the Lower Mainland, he ultimately chose to play for the Douglas Royals.
“After having multiple conversations with Robby (Men’s soccer head coach Robby Toor), talking to players on the team, and practicing with them, I felt like I was at home,” said Siafakas.
Siafakas has now been with the Royals for over two years and has finished as a top three goal scorer in both seasons. He emphasized how “the guys, coaches, and staff are amazing” and he “loves it here.”
Last year the Royals brought home their eighth PACWEST Provincial championship since the 1999-2000 season after Siafakas scored a late game-winning goal against the Vancouver Island Mariners.
“I was sitting on the bench waiting to get into the game and my teammates kept telling me that I was going to score a goal once I was put in. Sure enough, moments after I stepped on the field, I saw the ball get past the defender and I chased after it. I then took a shot and the ball went in,” said Siafakas.
Unfortunately for him and his team, that season would be the last time they would be competing for a very long time. Months later the coronavirus pandemic made both the PACWEST and CCAA cancel the men’s soccer season among plenty of other sports last June.
“I was obviously very sad about it, I was really looking forward to playing, but it’s the right decision because it is very hard to monitor every player’s heath and a lot of people can be at risk,” noted Siafakas.
When asked how the pandemic affected his training he said: “It’s different. As an athlete you want to practice but with COVID-19, it’s not as safe. Gyms and parks were closed, you had to find different ways to continue lifting weights, meals weren’t the same, etc. Working out for the first couple of months was tough.”
As of right now, Siafakas and his team are continuing to control what they can to stay ready and are waiting for this journey to hopefully resume at some point down the line.