The Soccer Journey of NPSL Alum Matthew Pantazes

Journeys can be short and quick or long and winding.  NPSL alum Matthew Pantazes had an unorthodox journey of his own that took him from California to Greece and back again.  He was a player, coach, and now serves in the business side of soccer as a sales director for Capelli Sport. 

It all started at Santa Rosa Junior College where Pantazes was a standout for the men’s soccer program that rose to a #1 national ranking in 2002.  The 2002 squad was so good that it was inducted into the college’s hall of fame in 2018.

Santa Rosa head coach Marty Kinahan remembers Pantazes for his intense passion for the beautiful game.

“The guy loves soccer, and he’s a hard worker,” Kinahan noted. “I’m excited for his move and we’re looking forward to working with Capelli in the future.”

After earning a degree from Santa Rosa, Pantazes headed to Greece to continue his education at Deree College and follow his soccer dreams.  Those dreams saw the Santa Rosa, California native play in both the Greek Third and Fourth Divisions from 2006-2009.  Clubs like Ermis Korydallos FC, Asteras Korthiou FC, and Aias Salaminas FC would become his home, and the experience changed his life in the process.

“My playing experiences in Greece were a dream come true,” Pantazes said. “I feel very fortunate to have played abroad and in a professional league during my time at Aias Salaminas FC.  I recall being the only guy in the locker room that spoke English, and I was the only American ever to play for all three of the teams I played for.  Nevertheless, it was the best way to learn Greek which I was able to do fairly quickly through soccer.”

Pantazes had many memorable experiences playing soccer in Greece, but one stands out in his mind. 

“The most meaningful experience was playing for the team on my father’s beloved island of Andros, Asteras Korthiou FC,” Pantazes said. “One of my top three and most glorious moments as a soccer player was our first match in which over 3,000 people attended.  I scored the game-winner in the second half, which went down in the island history books as the biggest win in 20 years.  This brought honor to my family name, Pantazes, and my Greek lineage, my father Stamatis Pantazes and my grandfather Giorgos Pantazes, on our island of origin through soccer was one of my best experiences that I am forever grateful for.”

While his experiences in Greece were immensely impactful, his life’s greatest honor has been his role as a proud father to 3-year-old Aurora Marianna Pantazes. 

Pantazes would return to the U.S. after graduating from Deree College in 2010, and his journey continued with the Sonoma County Sol of the NPSL.  He would play for the Sol from 2011 to 2014, and the club emerged as a true dynasty in amateur soccer.  

Former Sol head coach Benjamin Ziemer shared his thoughts on Pantazes and his contributions to the squad.

“Matt was a dedicated teammate during a great period for the Sonoma County Sol which saw us attend three consecutive national finals as well as play the Portland Timbers two years in a row in the Open Cup,” Ziemer stated.  

Ziemer had a major impact on his players, especially Pantazes.  

“He was the best technical coach I have ever had,” Pantazes said. “His soccer IQ is off the charts, and I really enjoyed playing for him.”

Pantazes described himself as a “utility player,” and that came from the fact that he played a variety of positions during his lengthy career, including outside midfielder, outside back, attacking midfielder, and holding/defensive midfielder.  His versatility was clearly a major asset at every stop of his playing career.  

Pantazes got involved in coaching and was able to share his unique experiences with younger players.  Head coach Tom Ryan spoke of the impact Pantazes had on the soccer program at The Branson School.  

“Matt brought a true professional attitude to the position,” Ryan said. “He easily hopped into scrimmages and always raised the level of our training sessions.  He was particularly helpful with our midfielders as that was his position with the Sol, and he was instrumental in teaching them the nuances of the position.”

Pantazes would go on to spend 11 years in the sports apparel industry before becoming a sales director with Capelli Sport.  His focus is on the Northern California market.

Capelli Sport just happens to be the preferred uniform and apparel partner of the NPSL, and the two organizations have an agreement through the 2025 season.  

Pantazes has done just about everything in his career, and he has enjoyed every minute of it.  From playing to coaching to serving as a sales executive, Pantazes has served the beautiful game with professionalism and passion.    

Photos Provided by Matthew Pantazes

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