FOOTBALL is not merely a game or a hobby for the Triantis family of Hurstville.
Rather, a guiding grace for widow Poppy Triantis and her 10 children, nine of whom reside with her in their rented, five-bedroom family home.
Last year Poppy lost her husband, and the children their dad, when 51-year-old fruiterer Con Triantis died in a horrific shopping centre blaze which destroyed three premises in a busy Eastwood street.
While his death devastated a big family, the world game breathed new life their way, helping them to forget at least some of their sorrow.
At the top of the Triantis footballing tree are older brothers Chris Triantis, 24 and Peter, 20, well-known Premier League players with the ‘‘Blues’’ — Sydney Olympic FC. And this season they have been joined at Olympic by younger siblings John 18, Stephanie 10 and Nectarios Triantis, 8.
Other family members include Georgia, a 22-year-old civil engineer who also plays for Strathfield; Michael 16, who plays tennis at St Mary’s Cathedral College; and Paul, 13, and Jim, 11, who both play with Connells Point FC’s under 14s.
And then there’s the baby of the family, Eleni, 5.
‘‘She really wants to play, too, but I’ve told her she has to get older,’’ said Poppy with a laugh. ‘‘Besides, my time is all taken up driving the others around.’’
As we spoke, Poppy was trying to plan how to get her children to football training and games this week at various suburban venues.
This amazing mum’s incredibly busy life helps her not to dwell too often on the past.
‘‘It was a terrible time last year,’’ said Poppy, who admits she still finds life tough after organising the move of her family to a new home.
‘‘Having such a big family has helped, what with their football and the kids doing well. But they can’t, of course, replace Con.’’
Poppy’s motherly pride still manages to shine through, especially when discussing her Olympic brood.
Chris Triantis, a goal scorer in Sydney Olympic’s 2-1 win over Parramatta last weekend, and Peter Triantis are very talented.
Chris honed his skills playing with French club Metz for two years before returning to play for Sydney FC Youth, and also with the Newcastle Jets.
Not far behind is John, 18 a talented midfielder hoping to join his older brothers in first grade. He turned down several offers from other clubs to move to Olympic from Parramatta FC, winning the under-18 Player of the Year in consecutive years.
Stephanie is an aspiring Matilda, playing above her age in Olympic’s under-12 women’s squad in the NSW Super League.
‘‘That’s why I’m driving to Bathurst this weekend, where her team is playing,’’ Poppy said. She drives the kids to training and games in a 10-seater van.
‘‘But sometimes I need Georgia and Peter to help me, because it can just get too hectic.’’
Poppy casts her eye towards Nectarios 8, the youngest and now most mischievous of seven brothers, who is playing in the Premier Development Program (PDP) under 10s. She says he has grown up fast, and tough.
So tough, they say, some parents of opposing, older players don’t like their sons playing against him!
‘‘He’s learnt from his brothers, of course,’’ Poppy added. ‘‘But he could actually be the most gifted footballer of all of them.’’
After last year’s tragedy, Sydney Olympic helped with fund-raising for the battling family.
Now, with five children playing, the club has no better supporter than the Triantis family.