Like most children his age, Orlando Savvaris lives and breathes football.
He wakes up thinking about it, plays every chance he gets, watches it on TV and goes to bed dreaming of becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo or Leo Messi.
But dreams can only take you so far, and although he may be just eight years old, Orlando has already realised that it’s hard work and dedication that makes champions.
Natural talent also helps of course, and Orlando has bags of it.
Born in Australia, to a Brazilian-Australian mother and Greek-Lebanese father, this talented young man now calls London home.
He plays his football in South London, for Premier League club Crystal Palace, which has decided to allow Orlando to play for its under-9s until he is ready to sign a professional contract in May.
But Palace faces stiff competition for the young man’s signature because, as his father Abie tells Neos Kosmos, Orlando is also being scouted by some of the world’s biggest cubs.
“Spanish giant Barcelona has shown interest, as have English Premier League clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham,” says Abie.
Despite continued interest from Arsenal and West Ham, Abie says he has already decided on Crystal Palace.
“Once we went to Crystal Palace we were immediately embraced by them. It was evident the club wanted Orlando in their set-up.”
“In fact, one day the head of the academy asked Orlando what he has for breakfast and then told the whole team, ‘whatever Orlando has, I want all of you to eat the same as he is brilliant’. It showed me they believed in my son. And they have continued to show the trust they have in him by allocating him personal trainers and working with him to help improve him as a player.
“They also put him to play with the boys that are a year older than him, which again shows how much they believe in him.” Many will wonder, if Orlando is really that good and has had genuine offers from the best teams in the Premier League, why did he select Crystal Palace. The answer is simple, says Abie.
“Teams like Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham have academies everywhere, even beyond the United Kingdom. For them it’s nothing to give 10,000 pounds and get players in from other academies. They take them in and forget them in the longer run. Later on they buy ready-made players from other clubs. But at Crystal Palace and clubs like Brentford and QPR, they believe in you all the way. They develop you and give you opportunities, which in the long run translates to better prospects,” says Abie.
A die-hard AEK Athens supporter, Abie says he also likes that Crystal Palace are nicknamed ‘The Eagles’, similar to AEK, which has the double-headed Byzantine eagle as its emblem.
Just like an eagle, Orlando is quick and precise with his movements. His coaches often talk about his speed, explosiveness, great technique, powerful shot and very good physical characteristics.
If he continues working hard the young player is certain to have a bright future, which could one day lead to a call-up for a national team, but which would he choose.
“I have the right to represent Brazil, England, Greece or Australia, but it’s still too early to be thinking of such things,” says the level-headed Orlando.