He has won a premiership, an AFLPA Most Valuable Player award, two Carlton best and fairests, two All Australians, been Carlton captain and as of this week, is part of the multicultural team of the century. As far as football goes, there is not much that Anthony Koutoufides hasn’t achieved.
Multicultural Round this week pays homage to past players just like Koutoufides: Players from ethnic backgrounds who have offered such a great deal to the AFL and football itself. This significance of the team of the century induction, as well as the week in general, is not lost on Koutoufides, who rates this as one of his greatest achievements.
“Obviously the premiership is the greatest achievement. But of the individual accolades, the multicultural team of the century is especially significant. It pays tribute to not only my playing career but also my parents, my heritage,” Koutoufides said.
Koutoufides is listed on a half back flank in the Multicultural Team of the Century, in a backline containing John Worsfold, Stephen Silvagni, Matthew Scarlett, Wayne Schwass and Glen Jakovich. The team also includes greats from years gone by such as Alex Jesaulenko and Roy Cazaly, while also including future Hall of Famers such as Nick Riewoldt and Simon Black. It is this exclusive company that makes it such an honour for Koutoufides, with these players having forged themselves as greats of Australia’s game despite their different backgrounds.
The former Carlton great is also part of the Italian and Greek team of the centuries, stemming from his mother and father’s respective backgrounds. Carlton is synonymous in regards to ethnicity in football, with the likes of Ron Barrassi, Alex Jesaulenko and the Silvagni’s having a profound influence on the club. It is this trait of Carlton which makes ‘Kouta’ even more grateful about the opportunity presented by Carlton.
“Being part of Carlton was all the more special (despite going for Collingwood when he was growing up). I suppose there were more ethnics who had been involved with Carlton at the time so being part of a multicultural club such as Carlton did provide that extra significance,” Koutoufides said.
Growing up and supporting Collingwood found him idolising one player in particular – another multicultural man – Peter Daicos. Along with Daicos, Koutoufides ranked Stephen Silvagni, Mark Mercuri, Saverio and Anthony Rocca, Paul Licuria and of course his old mate Ang Christou as some of the best multicultural players that he either played alongside or against.
Recently, the issue of racism has engulfed the AFL and sport as a whole, given recent events with Adam Goodes. In his playing days, Koutoufides said he was also the target of racial taunts, often by fans but in some cases by players. But Koutoufides – who in the past was described as ‘Carlton’s Adonis’ – was of the belief that what happened on the footy field stayed on the footy field.
“I did experience racism when I played, from both people in the crowd and players on the odd occasion. But I did not think much of it so I did not make anything of it. It was just a bit of banter so I left it at that,” Koutoufides said.
Being recognised as one of the past ethnic greats in the AFL’s history is not where it stops for Koutoufides. After been appointed the coach of the under 16 World Team, who are taking part in the AFL Under 16 Championships, Koutoufides wants to be responsible for the development for the next wave of multicultural talent in the AFL.
“I just want to give kids the opportunity that I had. I think that there is a lot of talent in the kids in the team and I want to get the best out of them. We’ve seen in the past two games, where we beat North West WA – who were undefeated – and South Pacific by 111 points. So the talent is there,” Koutoufides said.
When quizzed about the recent struggles of his former side Carlton, Koutoufides said that “there is still a lot of work to be done, just looking at the list. But it is not only the players; other changes need to be made. It is going to take a lot of time.”
To go with the past greats such as Koutoufides, Andrew Carrazzo will take to the field on Saturday night as a member of the ever growing multicultural AFL community. While Carrazzo will look to turn Carlton’s fortunes around on Saturday night, perhaps another ethnic Blue – the man they call ‘Kouta’ – could be of assistance to Carlton at the moment.