South Melbourne FC is deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of one of our club legends, Mr Takis Mantarakis (aged 81) on Saturday.
Mr Mantarakis was (and will always remain) a South Melbourne Hellas legend, representing our club for nearly a decade in the 1960s and winning many honours along the way. He is a distinguished member of our Team of the Century and our Hall of Fame.
Mr Mantarakis featured for Panathinaikos in Greece and played there alongside another future South Melbourne player (and coach) in Jim Pyrgolios. In 1961, he was persuaded by his great friend Antonis (Tony) Hatzieleftheriou to join him in Australia to play for the South Melbourne Hellas side that had been promoted from Division One in 1960 and was now competing in the Victorian State League.
The left back made his Hellas debut in the 1-1 draw against Ringwood Wilhelmina at Olympic Park on 29 April 1961 and scored his first goal for the club just over a month later in the 1-1 draw against Port Melbourne Slavia at Anderson Reserve (1 July). He only intended to stay for a few months in Melbourne before returning to Greece, however “I loved the people, they made me feel so welcome..so I stayed.” It was a love affair that remained for over 50 years.
Mr Mantarakis was an integral part of South Melbourne Hellas’ 1962, 1964, 1965 and 1966 Victorian State League Championship sides. He captained the 1965 team and only relinquished the captaincy in 1966 for another South Melbourne great – and in many people’s opinion the greatest South Melbourne player of all time – in Con Nestorides to lead the club to further glory.
Mr Mantarakis’ playing performances were duly noted by the Victorian state team, who selected him on several occasions in the 1960s. He enjoyed representing Victoria in tour matches in the 1960s alongside several Hellas teammates that included Hatzieleftheriou, John Bedford, John Margaritis, Ted Smith, Frank Micic and Michael Mandalis to name a few.
In his final season at Middle Park in 1969, Mr Mantarakis was part of the first South Melbourne side that won the Summer Cup (then known as the AMPOL Cup). Frank Micic opened the scoring and Leo Damianakos sealed the result with a penalty kick as Hellas defeated Croatia 2-1 in the Grand Final at Olympic Park on 7 March 1969. In an era where many famous and great players graced the playing surface of Middle Park, it is a great testament to Mr Mantarakis’ leadership and playing ability that he managed to represent the club as a player and captain for so long.
Despite having not played for the club since 1969, Mr Mantarakis always remained involved at South Melbourne, either as a coach or simply as a supporter. A softly-spoken gentleman, he enjoyed a stint as an assistant coach in South’s early National Soccer League years in the late 1970s. He was also a youth coach and happened to coach current Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou as he was making his way up the junior ranks at South Melbourne. He also enjoyed coaching stints at other clubs in Victoria including Port Melbourne, Box Hill and Oakleigh.
On Friday 22 February 2002, Mr Mantarakis was recognised for his playing ability when he was named as a substitute in the South Melbourne Team of the Century at the Crown Palladium Ballroom. He continually attended SMFC matches with several of his 1960s teammates and proudly joined Mandalis and Takis Xanthopoulos in launching the Heritage Strip worn by our players in the Westfield FFA Cup in July 2015.
South Melbourne FC President Leo Athanasakis was deeply saddened at learning the news. “We are devastated that one of our famous Number 3s has left us. My father and his generation vividly remember seeing Mr Mantarakis represent South Melbourne and Victoria with such distinction in the 1960s. Any player that is nominated for inclusion in our Team of the Century – let alone be part of the squad – must be an exceptional player and character. We have truly lost one of our greats and I wish to extend our club’s sincerest condolences to the Mantarakis family and their friends.
“Our media team were with Mr Mantarakis only as recently as December to film him as part of a historical documentary of the club, so the Mantarakis name and his legacy will always live on at our club.”
Mr Mantarakis is survived by his wife Angela, their son Yianni, daughter Nadia and their children.
We bid farewell to one of the best players to wear the South Melbourne Number 3 shirt. Vale Takis Mantarakis, 22 June 1934 to 23 January 2016.