QUEENS, N.Y. — Andreas Chronis has no regrets, no regrets whatsoever.
Twelve years ago, as a member of the U.S. Under-18 national team, the Bayside, N.Y. native faced a monumental decision that not many teenagers will ever have.
Columbia University dangled a four-scholarship in front of the Holy Cross High School standout to attend the school and play soccer.
Thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, AEK Athens of the Greek Super League dangled a professional soccer contract.
Chronis chose the latter.
Things did not work out. He played for several lower division clubs in Greece, but eventually returned to the United States and now he plays for the highest divisions of amateur soccer in the USA as captain of the N.Y. Pancyprian Freedoms.
“I don’t regret anything that I did,” Chronis said. “If you asked me when I first came back at 22, 23, there were a lot of regrets. Now, I am totally fine.”
Time can put the proper context on things. Chronis, 30, is married, has newborn daughter and runs his family’s retail clothing business in Westchester when he hasn’t been pursuing playing the beautiful game.
If he hadn’t had tried his luck at Europe, Chronis would have been kicking himself for the rest of his life instead of kicking the ball on the fields of New York City and New Jersey.
“There is a finite amount of time,” he said. “That was part of the reason why I decided to go to Greece. I knew that after college at 22, trying to break into the first time in MLS or overseas, you don’t have enough to break in unless you’re like a real standout player. As a left back, you need that time to get settled into a team. That’s why I wanted to do that. Now, at this time of my life, I don’t regret anything that I did.”
Chronis has become one of the key figures of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and Dr. Manning Cup defending champions and Rapaglia Cup winners of the Eastern New York Soccer Association.
Pancyprian Freedoms technical director Panicos Onisforou, who has seen Chronis stand out in many matches, understood the left back’s value to the team.
“He is almost the epitome of a Greek boys that’s been born in New York and has been a part of the club,” he said. “Early on, you could see something about him.
“Whether we play the worst team or the best team, his ambition is there, his attention is there. He wants to win. He turned 30 in April. His desire is still there. He means a lot to the team. He is almost the epitome of what the team is.”
Not surprisingly, Chronis’ love affair with the game started early in his life.
“Honestly, it’s such a beautiful game with so many different aspects,” said Chronis, whose 86th-minute goal snapped a 1-1 deadlock and helped the Pancyprian Freedoms to a 3-1 win over New York Athletic Club at Belson Stadium at St. John’s University on Sunday night. “It’s a mental component, it’s a physical component. It’s a camaraderie with the team and the players that you meet and grew up with. and you get to learn about these back stories of these players, especially in this league. A lot of them have played D1 soccer, a lot of them have played professionally. A lot of them are aspiring professionals out of college. It’s just something that you can never give up.”
Chronis performed for Eleftherian-Pancyprians youth team, then for B.W. Gottschee, both Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League teams, before it was temporarily switched to the New York Cosmos. He also played for the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls), before turning heads at the nationally, performing for the U-17, U-18 and U-19 national sides.
Then came the scholarship offer and an opportunity to play overseas.
“It’s not easy picking one of the best educations in the world or sitting next to Rivaldo and playing soccer,” Onisforou said. “As a kid that’s all you dream for.”
Brazilian great Rivaldo, a member of the 2002 World Cup championship team, played for Athens AEK in the 2004-05 season.
“There were a lot of unknowns going over to play professionally in Greece, but that was something I knew I had to do for myself,” Chronis said. “I knew that if I didn’t take on that opportunity, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. I said to myself that when I left, if it didn’t work out, I would come back and go back to school and get my degree.”
Chronis recently finished his degree at Baruch College in business management.
“The experience in Greece. in the beginning everything was great,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the things came into play. I didn’t have a manager who was able to push me in the right direction and pull the right strings that needed to be pulled. I ended up on loan to a fourth division club over there. It’s tough to get up to where you need to be by playing fourth division. It’s honestly at the same level as this same league is.”
Chronis returned home and has thrived, leading the Pancyprian Freedoms to several championships.
He has three passions in life — his family, his work and soccer. It’s not always easy finding time for soccer.
“It’s hard to juggle,” he said. “My people that I’m around and that I love, and they love me they understand that this world we always have to do things that we have to do. We work, we go to school. There are things that we have to do. This is something that we choose to do. That’s why you need to do these things. This is the thing that gives pleasure in your life. Because my family knows how much I love it, they also understand that I need to make time for this.”
The CSL has fall and spring seasons. During the summer, Chronis has performed with FC Motown of the National Premier Soccer League. “I can’t give it up,” he said. “I only have another couple of years in me to play at this level and it really is a competitive level and I enjoy it. I just want to play as long as I could.”
It’s just about playing and winning. Chronis has wanted to set an example to his teammates that you can have your soccer cake and eat it, too. So, he has taken his captain role seriously.
“As a player who has grown up playing locally and nationally, I really enjoy being captain of this team,” he said. “I want to lead by example. I want to show these guys, especially the younger guys that come in that even as a 30-year-old guy with a job and all that, I find the time to keep myself in shape and I’m always going to be a competitive player. It’s important to lead by example, being the captain of this team and a winning team. It’s really important, it really is.”
Added Onisforou: “He does set the tempo. He never goes soft. Once he steps over the white line, it’s all or nothing for him. He doesn’t have a first gear; he doesn’t have a second gear. It’s all in. Whether he’s injured, he plays, does whatever he has to do to play.”
And win as well.