Hobokenite Scores in Cyprus

Soccer is known around the world as “The Beautiful Game”. Americans may not have embraced it as much as the rest of the world, but it is growing in popularity in the States slowly but surely. After all, why would David Beckham — the Tiger Woods of soccer — make the jump from England to play before a fraction of an audience in the U.S.? (OK, there are 50 million reasons why)

Hoboken’s version of Beckham comes in the form of Nick Gkionis, a 22-year-old graduate of Stevens Tech. He too made the jump across the pond to play soccer in a foreign land, but his wasn’t from London to L.A. – but from Jersey to Cyprus.

Like most soccer players, Gkionis has been striking almost as soon as he ditched his stroller. And thanks to growing up with an older brother (George) to serve as a mentor for the sport and playing in leagues such as Jersey Shore Boca (which allowed him to compete against such teams as DC United of Major League Soccer) Gkionis was ready to dominate when he reached the college level at Stevens.

And dominate he did…earning All-American honors at a school known for tough academics first and athletics second. He also graduated with a degree in something called chemical engineering.

But with his native country was always in the back of his mind. His mother, Maria, is from Cyprus, while his uncle, Steve Stelios, was a member of the Greek national team and played professional soccer back in the ’70s…so Gkionis decided that playing a rookie season in Cyprus wouldn’t be the worst way to spend his post-graduation year.

Realhoboken.com heard from Nick last week and had a few questions outside of how the Tahini Dip is compared to what is served at It’s Greek to Me. Joe Concha, Realhoboken.com: So let’s get to the important questions: First, who’s hotter? The women of Cyprus or Hoboken?

Nick Gkionis: That’s a tough question!! But to give you an honest answer, I believe every woman on Earth is beautiful in their own way. (haha…I am saving myself from getting yelled at by my girlfriend in Hoboken).

Concha: That was a wise choice. How long have you been dating your girlfriend?

Gkionis: I have been with her for over two years now. I let her keep track of the exact figures.

Concha: Women seem to be better at such things. So what was her reaction when you said you were leaving? And how often does she visit, if at all?

Gkionis: Ever since she really got to know me, she knew that I wanted try to pursue a soccer career after graduation. So when the day came that she knew I was leaving for Cyprus I don’t think it was a huge surprise to her. She knew it was very important for me to do this. Obviously, it is not easy to say goodbye but this has been my dream for as long as I can remember so I knew I would have to make sacrifices. As much as I love my family, friends, and NJ the decision to leave was a no-brainer for me. It was an opportunity to try and start to live my dream. I came back for Christmas and New Years and so I got to see her for a few days during that time. She has not been to Cyprus to visit just yet.

Concha: What do you get paid to play soccer there?

Gkionis: I did not sign a million dollar contract, so I am not as they call it in the NBA “ballin”. We’ll just say I am “ballin on a budget.” All joking aside, right now I am focused on improving first and then getting paid.

Concha: I’m writing on a budget (discarded pizza boxes is an excellent source of cheese, for example), so I know where you’re coming from. So did you contact your current team in Cyprus or did they find you?

Gkionis: Well, my uncle used to play professionally for a team here and on the Cypriot national team back in the 70’s. He along with some of my other family members know some people that are involved with soccer teams here. Since my family and I visited in the summers for vacation because my mom is Cypriot, my older brother George and I were given the opportunity to train with a team. The summer before my senior year in college, I again came to Cyprus and trained with the team I am currently on. They liked the way I played that summer and decided to keep in contact with me until I graduated from college since I told them I would want to pursue a soccer career after I graduated. So to answer your question I did not directly get in contact with them, but after they saw me play one summer they were interested in signing me.

Concha: When do you plan on coming back and visiting?

Gkionis: We have five games left in the season over here and then I will be back in NJ for some vacation. I will probably be back around April 20th, and I will be out and about around Hoboken so I can relax a little. I am going relax and look at my options for next year.

Concha: That’s not bad. You’ll be back just in time to not experience any cold weather here. So what’s the biggest difference between Hoboken/America or Cyprus?

Gkionis: There are a lot of differences between America and Cyprus so I do not know where to start. Each place has its good things and its bad things. Obviously, their is a different language here and the weather is a little warmer. I also think it is a little more laid back in Cyprus in all aspects of life. Even the police don’t bug you as much like they do in Hoboken!! In the cities in Cyprus, you can park wherever and not worry about tickets and stuff. At the end of the day though, NJ is where I grew up and I love it more than any other place.

Concha: Is the rent and cost of living in general between Cyprus and Hoboken generally the same or vastly different?

Gkionis: I think the cost of living is lower in Cyprus (depending on which part of the island) then it is in Hoboken. However, I have noticed that the restaurants and the drinks at bars are more expensive (since I was a bartender at Mikie’s Squared in Hoboken, I generally know the prices). I don’t know about the rent because I am living at my grandmothers house, but from what I have heard the prices are lower than what I experienced in Hoboken. My grandmother has made my life a whole lot easier because no 22 year old likes to cook, clean, do laundry, fold laundry, or make his own bed. I do the grocery shopping and she whips up the 5 star meals. I guess if I was in Hoboken and paid someone to do all that for me it would set me back a lot!! Haha

Concha: What’s the one thing that you miss most about Hoboken?

Gkionis: Well, other than my friends, the view of NYC, the close proximity to NYC, and the nightlife. I would have to go with the pizza!! They have pizza over here but nothing like the stuff I used to eat in Hoboken. My diet and lifestyle changed a lot since I came to Cyprus because of soccer but when the season is over I will be treating myself to life’s pleasures like pizza.

Concha: Thanks for the time, Nick. We’ll go to penalty kicks with your better half and you as a follow-up when you return.