Taso Nikolakopoulos will be bringing a world-class soccer extravaganza to Manning Field Saturday at 4 p.m. when his Boston Braves Football Club (FC) hosts one of the world’s most historic clubs, Barcelona FC Veterans Team.
“I am the captain for the game, which is the highest owner you can get on this team,” said Nikolakopoulis, owner of John’s Roast Beef and Seafood. “We’re playing the official veterans’ team for the Barcelona Soccer Club who just won the Champions League last week. They have Lionel Messi, who is the greatest player on earth right now.”
Three years ago the Braves played Barcelona in an exhibition game in Spain, losing by a 3-2 score. Barcelona officials promised that they would return to the area and play the Braves again.
“I wanted the game played in Lynn,” said Nikolakopoulos. “We had a couple of events at the Lynn Historical Commission and people fell in love in the city. I’ve been trying to promote Lynn and now we have an international soccer club visiting our city and for the soccer community it’s a big deal.”
Nikolakopoulos expects a large turnout for the game, especially from the Lynn Youth Soccer and high school programs. Admission to the game is free.
Nikolakopoulos said members of the Boston Braves team give back to their community and serve as ambassadors for the sport of soccer. “It’s a positive atmosphere and what we do is travel around the world once or twice a year and play the best clubs in those countries (Spain, Italy, Germany, England, Brazil, Argentina, Greece).
“I went to Italy and we played against the AC Milan and Juventus alumni teams,” said Nikolakopoulos. “We’ve also played against Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea. We travel as a team and we’re American ambassadors for the sport.”
Nikolakopoulos played varsity soccer as a freshman at St. Mary’s High School but moved over to football. He was a walk-on soccer player at St. Joseph College in Vermont and became the captain of the 1992 team. He plays for the Aztecs Soccer Club in addition to the Braves FC.
“Soccer is my No. 1 passion,” said Nikolakopoulos.
Former Lynn English soccer star Shawn Bleau will also be playing for the Braves. Spiros Tourkakis is the team owner and coordinator of team events such as Saturday’s exhibition. The Braves coach is Ged White of Danvers, who is originally from the Manchester United Football Club.
Nikolakopoulos hopes to see a large crowd at Saturday’s game. “I think the people of Lynn will enjoy seeing the skill level of the players and the speed of the game.”