In Sydney’s inner southern suburbs lived two brothers – two footballers – who dreamt of making it all the way to the top of their game. Two young men who rivalled in the back yard as proud parents watched on. In many cases, the rivalry didn’t stop.
It certainly won’t tonight either, as the biggest rivalry in the Hyundai A-League comes to Pirtek Stadium for the Sydney Derby. For those brothers from the city’s south this is a game that means so much more.
Dean Bouzanis, the former Liverpool Reserves keeper, signed at the start of the season with the Wanderers. His brother Anthony – five years his junior – turns out for Sydney FC. The parents that watched on warmly in the backyard all those years ago would be forgiven for not knowing where to look.
Whilst it’s unlikely that the Bouzanis brothers will play tonight it’s almost certain to happen in the future and, given they are both goalkeepers, they aren’t going to play on the same team. For Dean this is a good chance to get used to the idea of putting his family second.
“I obviously wish my brother all the best and I want him to do as well as he can for Sydney FC,” Dean said.
“But this is a weird feeling too because Sydney FC is such a massive rival and I want them to lose against us.
“I don’t want them to win anything; there’s a grudge from our last game and how things happened there.”
19-year-old Anthony shows a bit more restraint when talking about his brothers club.
“I think he’s made a good choice signing for the Wanderers but at the same time there’s going to be a bit of rivalry between us,” Anthony explained.
“If he’s playing against another team I’ll be going for the Wanderers but if he’s not playing I hope they lose.”
The greater Bouzanis family have a much tougher time working all of this out and the boys’ parents have decided to stay bipartisan in this greatest of feuds.
“They are more neutral, they go for whoever is playing and if we’re playing each other, I think they’ll just want us to play at our best,” Anthony said.
Not to be outdone, Dean went a little further insisting that if the boys were playing, his parents would want them to play well though get a 0-0 draw.
Off the pitch the Bouzanis boys try and live as normally as possible and recognise that football is their business now, not just a run in the park. As a result Dean says that the only time their rivalry comes up between them is if the two clubs have an upcoming clash and the rest of the time it’s just a standard familial relationship.
“We hang out quite a bit off the pitch though close to the game there’s a bit of banter here are there,” Dean said.
For Anthony it’s a matter of avoidance, saying that he likes to keep the football talk to a minimum with his brother but conceded that it’s inevitable that team selection and tactics comes up.
“We like to keep things hush-hush and we don’t really speak about football much,” he said.
“Obviously, we’ll try to find out little things here and there but he doesn’t like giving things away and I don’t give anything back.”
In spite of all this, if there’s one thing that Dean does give to his junior brother it’s someone to look up to. The elder has travelled Europe keeping goals and when he was signed to English giants Liverpool he was described by Rafa Benitez as the best goal keeper in his age group in the world.
So when Anthony decided to don the gloves it was obvious that his brother was the perfect choice for a role model.
“He’s someone I’ve looked up to all my life and he’s five years older than me so he’s had much more experience than I’ve had,” Anthony said.
“Whenever I’ve needed help or advice he’s been there for me and I’ve always asked him and got his views of things.
“I think he’s got so much potential and I think he is the future of Australian football.”
As it stands, the Bouzanis boys will have to wait a little bit longer to face off against each other and while the parents will be hoping for a 0-0 draw both the fans and the brothers themselves recognise that this is the league’s greatest rivalry and no family gets in the way of that.