ANTHONY Koutoufides played 278 games for Carlton – every one of them in latent tribute to his father and mother.
In Jim and Anna Koutoufides, the prodigiously gifted son of migrant parents understood the hardships and the sacrifices that circumstance dictated when both of them cast their bread upon the waters.
“My father had a Greek-Cypriot background, but was born in Egypt. A new government came in and he and his family had to flee the country,” Koutoufides said.
“His father, brother and sister went to South Africa, his two other brothers went to Greece and he came to Australia alone.
“My Mum, by the age of 22, had lost both her parents. She came to Australia from Northern Italy to reunite with her brother, but with the intention of returning. But then my parents met and here is where they stayed.”
Koutoufides himself was born on the border of Lalor and Thomastown, locales of Melbourne which attracted peoples of cultures and nationalities both many and varied – and yet it was through local football that the man endearingly remembered by the masses as ‘Kouta’ found familiarity amongst the Anglo-Saxons.
In joining his older brother Paul in following his football dream to Carlton, Koutoufides had already reached the fork in the road, opting against athletics when the club dangled a three-year contract in front of him.
And the rest, as they say, is football history for the famous No.43, whose CV includes a Carlton premiership, dual best-and-fairest honours and the captaincy, together with League MVP status, Hall of Fame induction, All-Australian selection – and, for the purposes of this article, inclusion in the Italian, Greek and Multicultural Teams of the Century.
As one of the many poster boys for multiculturalism at Carlton, Koutoufides recalled a moment with the thirds in which he came to appreciate the great Australian game’s capacity to attract opposites.
“In the Under 19s I remember that the eastern suburbs boys would sit on one side of the changerooms and the northern suburbs boys would sit on the other,” Koutoufides said.
“The majority of northern suburbs boys were European-based while the other guys were the Australians, but there was a connection, and Ang (Christou), myself and Mil Hanna were lucky to follow on in the footsteps of Jesaulenko.”
Today, more than 10 years since he last laced a boot for the Blues, Koutoufides truly appreciates his standing in the game.
“It does give me pride that those of the younger generation come up to me because I had an impact upon their parents. That is the reason they know who I am,” Koutoufides said.
“It does make me very proud to know that through difficult circumstances in growing up and being called names . . . to be able to fight through all of that and to go out there to represent the Greek and Italian communities . . . it might have given every family hope that their child could make it too.”
This weekend, when Carlton and Hawthorn come together to support the cause of multiculturalism in the Blues’ inaugural Common Ground game, Koutoufides will think of Anna and Jim – especially Jim who died some 20 years ago.
“Mum and Dad sacrificed everything and I could see that even as a kid,” Koutoufides said. “They couldn’t give me more, but I felt like I had everything because they gave me love.”