Australian midfielder Peter Makrillos has lifted the lid on his tough time in the Greek Super League that left him unpaid for more than a year, and his attempt to rebuild his career in Finland.
Makrillos joined Finnish club IFK Mariehamm in January on a one-year deal. The 24-year-old spent 18 months in Greece with Panionios after he signed for them from Sydney Olympic in early 2018.
But that dream move back to Europe turned sour when he was left chasing his salary. Makrillos has employed lawyers to try and get back the money he is owed in Athens, and has hopes of now getting back to his best in Finland.
“In Greece I had many problems financially. It was really bad,” he told The World Game.
“It was over a year without salary. It’s still not sorted out, I’ve got lawyers looking into it. It’s not just me, it’s the whole team. It’s hard to live there.
“It’s a beautiful place but it’s really tough, I couldn’t do it anymore. I just needed a new start and to play my football somewhere where I’m going to be secure financially. Somewhere I can just enjoy my football again.
“I want to showcase myself. Make a name in Europe again. I did well in Greece but the problems there, it’s not ideal to play football.
“You want to feel secure. When you’re playing football you don’t think of money, you don’t think of anything else. But the reality is you have to look at that, you have to look at if you’re stable, if you’re OK, if you’ve got enough money to eat.
“That’s the whole reason why I left. Not many people know that kind of thing happens in football…. But you have to put your head down, put your head down and do what you love.”
Makrillos played 15 first-team games for Panionios, recording two assists in the Greek top flight. Despite battling off-field financial issues, the central midfielder has remained positive and is determined to kick on.
“I played many games, got some good experience playing against big clubs like Olympiacos and PAOK,” he said.
“I made it to the semi-final of a Greek Cup, so it was a good experience but it doesn’t always work for everyone how you expected it. What can you do?
“It’s tough. It’s a big issue there because of the financial crisis that’s happened. I don’t know. I learned a lot, so I can look at it in a good way.
“I’ve experienced something like that at 23, 24 years of age. But I’m happy with how everything’s happened, I’m OK.”
Makrillos played three cup games for his new club IFK Mariehamm and scored a goal before the Veikkausliiga season was shutdown because of the Coronavirus. The Grönvitt are based in the sparsely-populated Aland Islands off the south-eastern coast of Finland.
“It’s different, different to what I’m used to,” he explained.
“But the people here are polite, they’re nice people. Everyone speaks English as well, it’s a beautiful place. It’s really quiet here and I like that, I don’t go out much.
“I prefer to just stay home and chill. I’ve only signed till November so it’s a one-year contract. It’s going to be good for me. The club I’m at now is on an island in between Finland and Sweden.
“It’s closer to Stockholm and they actually speak Swedish here, not Finnish. It’s not Greece or Australia, but it’s cute. It’s relaxing. Hopefully we can do well in the season.”
Born and raised in Sydney’s south-west, Makrillos spent six years in the academy of Stoke City. He was handed a contract at Stoke after impressing in a Nike competition and spending six months at Barcelona’s famed La Masia.
“When I was 12 I was splaying for Sutherland Shire and we won the Nike Cup in Australia,” he said.
“We went to England to play against all the big clubs in the world. We had Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona in our group.
“After that Barcelona invited me to go for a trial. I was at La Masia for nine months. Things didn’t work out but from there I went directly to Stoke for six years.
“They were in the Premier League at that stage. I was around the first-team, I was training with the first-team experience. I learnt a lot.
“I was alone there for the first two, three years and then my family came over, which made it easier for me. But it’s no so easy to live there, my parents weren’t working. It was difficult for them to find work.”
Makrillos left the Potters in 2014 and eventually returned to Australia two years later, spending time in the NSW NPL with Rockdale City and Sydney Olympic before his move to Greece.
The former Young Socceroo is now out to build a name for himself in Europe and eventually push himself into consideration for the national team.
“My dream is to play the Socceroos and hopefully after this year go to a much bigger club,” he said.