Giannis Nikopolidis, the son of Euro 2004 winning goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis, was drafted by the New York Red Bulls Major League Soccer (MLS) team on Wednesday.
The Georgetown University goalie is the Red Bulls third draft pick, the 71st MLS draft pick.
Red Bulls welcome their own Greek Freak
The New York Red Bulls welcomed the 21-year-old player, dubbing him their own Greek Freak, after the NBA’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The New York Red Bulls are run by the multinational energy drink company, which also sponsors teams in Salzburg, Australia; Leipzig, Germany and Bragadino in Brazil; they selected Nikopolidis at No. 71 in the MLS draft.
The New York Red Bulls play their matches at the Red Bull Arena, a stadium with a capacity of 25,000 spectators.
“Our own Greek Freak! We’ve selected Giannis Nikopolidis out of GUHoyasMSoccer with the No. 71 pick! Welcome, Giannis!” its welcoming Tweet read.
For his part, Nikopolidis said he was happy to be selected at number 71 of the Draft, which coincidentally is the number his father wore during his glorious career in Greek arenas.
The Consulate General of Greece in New York heralded the draft on Facebook, saying:
“A new GreekFreak is born! Congratulations to goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis who was the 3rd pick of the New York Red Bulls at the 2022 Superdraft! Son of the former goalkeeper of Greece’s National Team Antonis Nikopolidis he now begins his journey at the Major League Soccer (MLS)!”
Son of a soccer legend
Giannis is the son of Greek soccer champion Antonis Nikopolidis, one of the best goalkeepers in the country with 90 caps for the national team.
He was born on December 8, 2000 and joined the U17 and U19 teams of Olympiacos FC and Greece’s U17 and U19 national teams
The 21-year-old goalkeeper is 1 meter 88 cm tall (6.17 feet). From 2018 and onward he played in the NCAA with the Georgetown University Hoyas.
In the footsteps of a champion
Born on January 14, 1971, Antonis Nikopolidis made his first soccer steps with his local team of Anagennisi Artas, from which he was transferred to Panathinaikos in the summer of 1989.
He made his debut in the first team during the 1990–91 season in a match against his future club, Olympiacos.
Being second to Jozef Wandzik, it wasn’t until the 1997–98 season when he established himself as No. 1 goalkeeper with Panathinaikos.
His performance with Panathinaikos was outstanding and he debuted in the National Team in August 1999. In the 2001-2002 Champions League tournament he was instrumental in the club’s advance to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
In the summer of 2004, after a dispute with the club over his contract, he left and joined arch-rivals Olympiacos. It was soon after he helped Greece win the UEFA Euro trophy on July 4.
Antonis Nikopolidis was loved by Olympiacos followers. Keeping a clean sheet in the first derby against his former club, he went on to win two Doubles in a row, making him the only Greek player to win three consecutive doubles with two different clubs.
His match-winning saves in the most important games put him at the top. His penalty-saving abilities were spectacular.
Nikopolidis saved three penalty kicks against Roma, Real Madrid and Rosenborg BK, making him undefeated from the penalty spot in UEFA Champions League in the Olympiacos jersey.