Gungahlin junior George Timotheou signs with Belgian club Zulte Waregem

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It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for George Timotheou but all the hard work paid off after he transferred to Belgian club Zulte Waregem in a bid to play first grade. The Gungahlin United junior signed a two-year deal, with an optional season, with the Belgian Pro League team last week, just months after he impressed on his Bundesliga debut. The transfer to Zulte Waregem will give Timotheou more opportunities to play first grade after spending last season in reserves for German club Schalke 04. The 21-year-old centre-back will use the move as a stepping stone to break into Europe’s top competitions, such as La Liga and the English Premier League. Timotheou moved to Europe last year after he was released by Sydney FC without making a single A-League appearance. But Sydney Olympic offered him a lifeline in the NSW premier league and the defender used the opportunity to kick-start his career. His resilience and talent caught the attention of Schalke, who signed the centre-back in their under-23’s squad. Schalke are one of the biggest clubs in Germany and have produced the likes of Arsenal sensation Mesut Ozil and Spanish striker Raul. Timotheou bid his time in reserve grade and by the end of a stellar campaign he earned his Bundesliga debut in the club’s final match of the season against Stuttgart. He played 90 minutes in the scoreless draw, making three tackles, one interception, three clearances and one blocked shot. “His Bundesliga debut was unbelievable,” said his younger brother Antoni Timotheou. “It was crazy to see my brother play against super stars who have played and even won a World Cup. He was matching them. “It shows how far he’s come with hard work and he’s become a big role model for young Canberran footballers. “Just because we don’t have an A-League or pathway to it, never give up if you really want it. If you’re willing to work hard and sacrifice, then anything is possible as George has shown. ” While George takes another major step in his soccer career, Antoni is a regular starter for Gungahlin in the Canberra premier league. Gungahlin will strive to get their season back on track when they clash with Monaro Panthers on Saturday. Their dream run in the first leg was tainted by two straight losses to Canberra Olympic and Tuggeranong United. Coach Marcial Munoz said it’s important for his side to come out firing and solidify their position in the top-four. “If we don’t try and put our opportunities away or at least test the goalkeeper then we’re going to suffer come the second half and allow our opponents to believe they’re still in the game,” Munoz said. “It’s important we learn our lesson from that, move forward and consolidate the first half of the season that we had. “The past two games were a stumbling block and last week’s result was extremely unjustified. But we aren’t down or out by any stretch of the imagination. We’ll do anything to make the top four in the games left.” Gungahlin defeated Monaro 3-0 earlier in the season, but the Panthers haven’t lost a game since round eight and are four points ahead of them. “We definitely respect they’ve had a good run,” Munoz said. “However, we need to focus on what we do and how we beat them last time. It’s been eight games since but not much has changed for either team, we haven’t seen too many transfers in or out.” CANBERRA PREMIER LEAGUE Round 13 Saturday: Belconnen United v Canberra FC at McKellar Park, 3pm; Monaro Panthers v Gungahlin United at Riverside Stadium, 5:30pm. Sunday: Tigers FC v Woden-Weston at Nijong Oval, 3pm; Canberra Olympic v Tuggeranong United at OConnor Enclosed, 3pm.

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