New book launch on Sunday, 17 November Once upon a time in Crystal Palace, Heart, football and life under Brexit

A new novel by Canterbury born Billy Cotsis

When a Greek Aussie, a Cypriot, football and Brexit all meet in Crystal Palace

Writer, director and good bloke, Billy Cotsis has just brought out his new book title, his fourth since 2016.

The book, a novel, allows him to return to the type of fiction he experimented with in the mid 2010s with a series of short film satires; only this time it’s in written form.

The book is centred on a fictional Greek Aussie called Phillipos, who is named after the Macedonian King Phillipos II, an out of form player who was born and bred in Canterbury and is likely to return home, having been deemed a flop. He is joined by his trusty sidekick, Alcibiades, named after the great Athenian general from the Peloponnesian War.

With the divisive Brexit looming in Britain, Fillipos is seeing his struggling FC team marching through the Cup rounds. Despite his youthful age, he is considered a has-been with either a return to Australia or a stint in the desert on the horizon. The Greek Aussie and his local buddies seemingly navigate a range of problems, egos, domestic violence, gambling and the meaning of heart and friendship.

They are joined by Jamal who is their struggling Captain with his own problems and woes. The Captain of a world cup winning team, he has to hold the egos of his team together while facing his own dramas, when Palace suddenly appoint Fernandinha as an assistant manager. There is also an appearance of a character who is based on Sydney Olympic footballer Alex Sanchez or Alejandro in the book.

Alex Sanchez is a real life star striker at Sydney Olympic FC and once played in La Liga in Spain. The character Alejandro is influenced by him, making an appearance to help bring an X Factor to the team. His brilliance on the pitch at Belmore is translated in the book as he brings his form to the team after receiving a ‘call’ when at training at Belmore Sports Ground one day.

Based on a collection of real and imagined stories accumulated in Crystal Palace, not based on the real (and awesome) football team, this tale combines a dry sense of humour, drama, sport and politics in a fast-paced nod to contemporary London and Europe.

“With Brexit coming and the fact I was a resident in Crystal Palace for a few years, I thought it would be a good time to write a story that takes in the divisiveness of Brexit. To make it work, I drew on a range of stories I experienced, witnessed or read about in London and elsewhere to create a range of characters who play for a fictional football team called Crystal Palace,” Cotsis explains.

The team is fighting relegation, trying to win the FA Cup as their form dips and each player seemingly becomes involved in a range of contemporary, societal issues.

The book also explores women in the game, with a new female assistant manager Fernandinha being appointed to the team, as well as a bad ass player agent Raelene. Readers will also note the introduction of a woman to the commentary box and as a referee.

“Football remains a blokey run sport at the top mainstream end, but I think changes are starting to be embraced as we see women’s sport featuring more in people’s consciousness, media and within the running of individual sports. There is still a long way to go before there is parity.” Cotsis said.

As for Cotsis’ old neighbourhood in London, he takes a nostalgic look. “Crystal Palace, there is no place in the world like it. Eclectic, diverse, dinosaurs in the park, an Eiffel Tower of their own and a real sense of community. That all comes through in the book.”

As a patriotic Lesvian, he makes his usual references to Lesvos and also found a way to mention Mytilenean House which is in Canterbury.

“Being from Lesvos, Asia Minor, Sydney and London, it all defines me and it helps when writing.”

Should the book be well received, there is scope to make this into a film, which would be a dream come true. “My London based filmmaker friend Basil Genimahaliotis who is originally from Adelaide and I make a range of documentaries and it is hoped that we now have the ingredients to create a film. We have a trilogy about the Greek areas of Italy coming out soon.”

The Crystal Palace FSCG, as he refers to them, is also a metaphor for life. No matter what struggles and obstacles, lack of resources, there is always a big heart out there willing to succeed or at least try.

*Once Upon a time in Crystal Palace comes out in Sydney next week and is also available in Amazon from November. The official launch is due on Sunday, 17 November at the Greek Bilingual Bookstore, Hurlstone Park. Contact Vicky Roussos for more information or 0419245372

Amazon profile:

Initial stores: Belmore and Kingsgrove newsagents, the wonderful Greek Bilingual Bookstore, Amazon in November and then (fingers crossed) national distribution. Limited copies of my other book titles and this one in Adelaide at the Messinian Association of SA

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