"There are hundreds of reasons to visit Crete at any time of year. The largest Greek island has mild weather, pristine beaches, great offerings for foodies and wine lovers, hundreds of ancient sites, breathtaking landscapes and hiking paths and wild nightlife. Crete boasts the best beaches in Greece, and some are among the best beaches in the world. History lovers will find dozens of archaeological sites to explore throughout the island. Crete was the center of one of the oldest known civilizations in the world, that of the Minoans, who made the island their home during the Bronze Age, from about 3000 to 1100 BCE. For food and wine lovers it doesn’t get better than Crete. There’s a saying in Greece: “Go to Santorini to fall in love, to Mykonos to party and to Crete to eat!” The foods of Crete are the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. Fresh vegetables, ripe fruits, wild greens, thick yoghurt, freshly caught fish and, of course, lots and lots of olive oil!!" This was Kostas' recruiting email to the New England Over-the-Hill players sent in December when this project became reality.
On March 24, 2022, Julian Dunlop, Kostas Saranteas, and their team of NEOTHSL players traveled to Crete to play in a mini tournament in Chania. This team was made up of NEOTHSL players from Beverly, Lynnfield Pioneers, Lynnfield Spartans, Lynnfield Olympians, Peabody, and Londonderry (NH).
According to Kostas, they are hoping to make this an annual "Spring Break/Spring Training" event. "The main driver for Julian and I on this trip is our own fond memories of a similar trip many years ago. Now that we are much older but still can kick the ball, like to travel, have fewer commitments, have fun being together and have more flexibility why not try again...and again??"
And they did it! Julian shared this when arriving back home,
"We played local teams from the Wembley Soccer club in Chania. The games were close, but favoring the home sides, with two losses and one draw. What was more important was the friendship and camaraderie that developed, between our organizations and the local teams from Chania."
Julian continued, "We had two dinners, they hosted one, and we did one where we donated shirts, trophies and $1,000 to their Club to help with new shirts and equipment. So, if you ever travel to Chania and go to the Wembley Soccer Club you will see our shirts framed and on the wall."
At the dinner hosted by our NEOTHSL team, they recognized several players for being inspirational and awarded them with team jerseys. Other notable highlights included a speech given by Mike O'Callaghan, an NEOTHSL player, who spoke of his father, who fought in the battle of Crete with the New Zealand platoon unit in World War II. They also awarded a game ball to a past NEOTHSL player who has moved to Crete and is now a permanent resident of Chania.
Above: NEOTHSL WWII veteran's son, Left: Past NEOTHSL Player
"While in Crete our group had the opportunity to visit an Olive oil factory and a local vineyard. There was a trip to Knossos Palace, an ancient City from 6,000 BC , plus excursions into the Mountains and enjoying the breathtaking sights and sounds of local villages, harbors and restaurants. Best wishes and Many thanks from us all."
Julian Dunlop and Kostas Saranteas
Mass Soccer would like to thank Julian and Kostas for their efforts on creating a meaning and memorable experience. They truly exemplify how soccer can bring people from across the world together to celebrate each other, teamwork, and the love of the game.