SPORTS

Olympiakos player surprised by national team exemption

The pinpoint accuracy of volleyball player Costas Christofidelis’s game has made him a key component in the winning ways at Olympiakos, this season’s league champion. Christofidelis was instrumental in his side’s recent 3-0 triumph in the league’s best-of-five final series against defending champion Iraklis. But Christofidelis admitted feeling shocked by his recent exemption from the national team’s ranks as it prepares for World League competition. «I wanted to play for the national team. The selections were not based on performance. I know my capabilities. Everybody was surprised by my exemption,» said Christofidelis. «The coach decides. He decides, and it seems that he pays no attention to other opinions. But the guys have a tough road ahead of them and I don’t want to create any problems.» The 26-year-old Christofidelis, who joined Olympiakos eight years ago after being singled out by talent scouts playing with Kavala, his first club, has been a regular with the national team throughout his career, beginning with junior level competition. He rejected a recent knee injury, from which the player has since recovered, as a possible reason for his failure to be selected this time around. «I had serious problems last year but all is now good and well,» said Christofidelis. He was forced to switch to a more defensive position because of the injury, but intends to return to offense in the new season. Despite his disappointment, Christofidelis said that a place on next year’s squad for the Athens Olympics was still a career objective. «The Olympic Games are the dream of any athlete. Seemingly, besides playing volleyball, I would need to engage in other activity for a place,» the embittered player contended. «I’m going to give it my best in the new season and will have fulfilled a dream if the national team’s coach decides that I should take part,» he added. Christofidelis, however, has cast his sights beyond the Athens Olympics. «If we don’t manage there, it will not mean that we’re finished. I’m not over the hill. I intend to continue offering to the sport after 2004. I don’t know whether others have their sights focused on the Olympics before disappearing. I’m going to continue,» he added. Christofidelis said that the Greek league champion’s failure to do well in the Greek Cup and European competition this season could be attributed to the team’s heavy schedule, which is further burdened by the commitment of many Olympiakos players to the national team. The narrow time gap between Greece’s international demands and the club-level Champions League which followed shortly afterward, took its toll on Olympiakos, the player contended. «The European [club-level] matches began too early and most of our team’s internationals were in bad shape due to fatigue. In Europe, it takes just one bad performance to be knocked out,» Christofidelis said. «The team needed more time. If the Champions League began later on, we would have had better results. As for the Greek Cup, we had a bad day against Panathinaikos, which played superbly.»