Written by Stuart McLennan
When Greece international front rower Stefanos Bastas took the leap and left his sunny homeland to make his name in the semi-professional ranks in the United Kingdom back in 2017, he based himself in the South Yorkshire city of Sheffield.
It would be an understatement to say the former Rhodes Knights player was happy when it was announced that the Greece World Cup squad will be located in ‘the Steel City’ for the duration of the 2021 tournament.
“I jumped through the roof when I found out that Greece is going to be based in Sheffield,” Bastas, who has 13 international appearances under his belt, told Everything Rugby League
“I have so many memories from the city, so the possibility of returning there for the World Cup as a member of the Greek team makes me so excited and at the same time motivates me to keep trying to improve in order to earn a spot in the team.”
The chances of selection in the squad for the ex Hemel Stags, Doncaster RLFC and Villeghailhenc-Aragon (French Elite 2 Division) player were always going to be strong. They improved recently when the Greek Rugby League Association announced they will allocate eight spots in the squad of twenty-four to domestic players.
When he returns to Sheffield, Bastas, who was the first Greek domestic player to take up a professional contract, has vowed to take his teammates to Browns Brasserie where he worked as a waiter when he wasn’t carting the ball up for Hemel or Doncaster.
“My plan is that even if I don’t make the team I will be in Sheffield to support the team. So I will definitely take the team to Browns Brasserie. Not only am I emotionally connected with the place but also it is a quality choice for food and drinks. I’m excited to see my old colleagues again.
“I lived in Sheffield for almost two years and I consider myself lucky to have this experience. Sheffield belongs to Yorkshire, and the people there have a great culture and they are proud of it. They are welcoming, polite and always support each other. Also, they love Yorkshire tea. I got addicted as well!”
As with all sports people around the globe Bastas saw his career come to a shuddering halt courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic. After leaving Doncaster at the end of last season he had teamed up with fellow Greek ‘bookend’ Giannis Rousoglou at Villegailhenc-Aragon. He provides a strong hint he is not finished with playing in France.
“It is really unfortunate that the season stopped, it took me a while to get used to life in the South of France and just when I was gaining momentum and the team had a few consecutive wins, climbing a few positions in the league ladder, even going through the quarter-finals of the French Cup, we had to stop. It is sad but I feel that I made the right choice joining Villeghailhenc. Massive experience, amazing people and rugby culture and a good place to improve my game. I think I have unfinished business in France.”
While rugby league has been in hiatus, Bastas has taken the opportunity to complete his national service in the Greek army, a move that may have additional benefits in terms of maintaining his fitness while waiting for the next playing opportunity.
“After 2 weeks of basic training, I gave the military oath. That day will always have a unique place in my heart. It is a special moment for every man in Greece. Of course, national service in the army puts a halt on my preparations for the World Cup, but I feel really proud of doing it. After all, maybe I’m not going to play games, but I will keep training, be fit and ready to go when I finish.”
While on duty there is a special place a few thousand kilometres away that the soldier can visualise becoming a reality in October 2021.
“Playing in such a historic venue as Bramall Lane, in front of a big crowd, I think is something that keeps me awake at night.”