Daniel Georgievski - Football - PlayersVoice
Daniel Georgievski - Football - PlayersVoice

Football

The things they never tell you

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The things they never tell you

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If I’d known how much crap I’d have to endure to get somewhere overseas, I still would’ve done it.

 

Not getting paid for months – even a year – people lying to your face or telling stories behind your back that weren’t true, getting left out of teams for no good reason and then being picked only so they could humiliate you by taking you off before halftime.

 

Getting screwed, basically.

 

But, hey, they were just the bad times. The good times were great and there were plenty of those. That’s what I’ll remember most.

 

I ticked all the boxes I wanted to tick after I flew out of Sydney as an 18-year-old kid taking a chance on life as a footballer in Europe. I won club titles, I played Champions League and Europa League, I represented Macedonia, I met a lot of great people and I travelled the world.

 

And, most important of all, if I’d taken some other course in life, I would never have ended up in Melbourne at the time I did and met my fiancee, Emily.

 

Not bad for a wog from Blacktown.

 

 

 

MACEDONIA & DINAMO ZAGREB

I’m super close to my dad, Kosta. I’ve looked to him for advice in all the big career decisions I’ve made. We think alike and the decisions have mostly been good ones, so I feel comfortable when we have the same opinion.

 

Dad and my mum, Marika, are both from Macedonia. They got married there in 1983. My brother, Stojan, was born there in 1984. They moved to Australia in 1985 and I was born in Blacktown Hospital in 1988.

 

I played for Blacktown Demons and Marconi Stallions as a kid, but I didn’t get picked for representative teams. I was good, but never really recognised.

 

When I finished high school, dad said, ‘We’re going to Macedonia before you start uni or whatever you decide to do.’

 

We went over for a couple of weeks at Christmas-New Year and my uncle knew one of the guys from the under-21 national team for Macedonia. He gave him a DVD highlight reel of my football and about a month later the Macedonia under-19s coach called dad.

 

I was invited over to trial and I did well, so they brought me back to play in some European qualifiers. I did well there, too, and agents started coming to us.

 

Marconi wanted me to keep playing reserves there even though I was in the youth national team for Macedonia. I was making arrangements to join another club in Sydney when dad rang me on a Friday to say Dinamo Zagreb wanted me to trial for them.

 

‘You have to be in Croatia on Monday, so on Sunday we’re leaving’, he said.

 

‘OK, let’s give it a go,’ I replied.

 

I’m super close to my dad, Kosta. I’ve looked to him for advice in all the big career decisions I’ve made. We think alike and the decisions have mostly been good ones, so I feel comfortable when we have the same opinion.

 

I played a trial game on the Wednesday. Guys like Luka Modric and Eduardo da Silva were in the team alongside me. It was unreal.

 

I didn’t have the best game. I was still so jet-lagged I fell asleep on the team bus on the way to the ground. But the coach said there was another game in two weeks if I wanted to stay and train and get ready.

 

You bet I stayed. I wanted to show them what I was really all about. I’ve always had to prove people wrong in my career.

 

I smashed it in that next friendly and scored two goals playing from the back. My European career had begun. Wow, the ups and downs that were ahead!

 

 

 

FOOTBALL POLITICS

I didn’t understand the language, so I didn’t know the first-team coach who brought me to Dinamo didn’t get on with the youth-team coach, who put me in the second youth team.

 

But I still learned a lot in the year I was there. I trained with the team in the morning and in the afternoon I had private lessons. It was like going to football university.

 

In the end, the first-team coach got the sack and I did as well because he’d signed me. That’s how it works sometimes. Politics. But I wasn’t coming home just because of that.

 

I trialled for a club in Croatia that didn’t sign me, but Medimurje said they would be happy to take me because I was coming out of a strong youth system at Dinamo.

 

I signed for a year, but after six months the club got a letter from the governing body back in Australia asking for a training compensation fee of $250,000 on behalf of the clubs I’d played for as a kid.

 

The people at Medimurje said, ‘We don’t have that sort of money. If we have to pay it you’ll have to go.’

 

Fortunately, I was able to get a very good agent to sort it out for me without the club having to pay. It was a bit rich asking for that sort of money when I wasn’t even a rep player back home, so when people ask me how did Australian football help you I say, ‘They almost ruined my European career.’

 

Medimurje got relegated at the end of my first season there, but I stayed to play in the second division and we got back up. They were only paying for my food and apartment, but that was all I really needed.

 

I re-signed and they made me captain – only the second Macedonian player to captain a side in Croatia. It was a pretty big achievement, but looking back I didn’t realise it at the time. I was pretty much still just a kid who wanted to play football. We got relegated again and my contract ended.

 

 

WITHOUT A CENT TO MY NAME

I was at the crossroads. I remember my dad asking, ‘What do you want to do?’ and I said, ‘I still haven’t achieved what I want to achieve in Europe.’ I knew I’d finish my career in Australia, but I was only 21. Dad said, ‘OK then, keep going, keep working, we’ll figure something out.’

 

After two months nothing was concrete for me in Europe. Being of Macedonian extraction didn’t help, because the Balkans weren’t really recognised with a good name, but I got screwed over by a few agents as well who were trying to make more money out of deals.

 

One club rang me and said, ‘Do you know this agent?’ and I said, ‘No.’

 

They said, ‘He’s got a signed authorisation by you that he can negotiate for you.’ And I said, ‘Mate, I haven’t signed anything.’

 

I ended up staying on in Croatia and signing for two years with Sibenik, which had finished third the previous season and was playing Europa League qualifiers.

 

The club was going through financial problems – I always seemed to find these clubs. I either wasn’t getting paid at all or it was just a percentage of what I was supposed to be getting. This club was the worst, because in my second year I didn’t get paid at all.

 

But I wanted to play football and I couldn’t afford not to if I was going to achieve my goals.

 

I got called up for the Macedonian full national team at 24. My dad said, ‘Maybe you should hold off a bit, Australia might want you to play for the Socceroos,’ but I never heard anything from them and I had the chance to play European and World Cup qualifiers.

 

It was a bit rich asking for that sort of money when I wasn’t even a rep player back home, so when people ask me how did Australian football help you I say, ‘They almost ruined my European career.’

 

I knew this was the way to go. I played against Russia in Moscow and the coach – John Toshack, a Liverpool legend – put me straight in at right back. I was shitting myself, but it was so exciting at the same time. I held my spot for a few years after that.

 

But at the same time I was still playing for a club where I wasn’t getting paid.

 

Sibenik is not a big place, so you could find out everything you wanted to know about anyone or anything.  One of the directors there said, ‘Nah, there’s no money,’ then he bought himself a boat and a new car. I’m like, ‘Sure.’

 

They paid for my apartment and food, but if I needed cash I had to rely on my parents. I wasn’t a big spender, though. If I had enough to buy a good coffee I was happy.

 

I eventually took the club to FIFA and after two or three years I ended up getting the money I was owed, but at the time I didn’t have a cent to my name.

 

But it wasn’t the money that drove me. It was the pure love of the game.

 

 

 

THE BIG TIME

At the end of my second year at Sibenik I had a few offers because I was playing for a national team. One was from a strong club in Ukraine and another was from Steaua Bucuresti in Romania.

 

I spoke to dad and he said, ‘Listen, do you want to chase money or do you want to succeed in football?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve stuck it out in Croatia for six years only due to football, not money,’ and he said, ‘If you go Steaua you’re going to tick those boxes you’re dreaming of.’

 

‘Done,’ I said.

 

I signed for Steaua and we went straight to Austria for a pre-season camp. It wasn’t until we got back that I realised just how big this club was. We played a friendly and just seeing the fans and how crazy it was, I thought, ‘OK, this is not like Sibenik.’ We barely got 500 people to the stadium there.

 

This was full on. Steaua was a club with a long history of success. They had won the European Cup in the 1980s.

 

My first official game was a Champions League qualifier. We lost, but I played pretty well and after we won our first game since I arrived the owner, who didn’t speak much English, shook my hand, gave me a hug and said, ‘Welcome.’

 

I was like, ‘What was that?’ and all the boys said, ‘Man, that’s big, he doesn’t do that.’

 

I was where I wanted and needed to be. We ended up qualifying for the Europa League. I got to play against big teams. I was ticking the boxes.

 

I didn’t have time to lift my head up because we had a game every three or four days virtually and when I wasn’t playing club football I was playing for Macedonia. In the space of four months I lost count of how many games I played, but I know I played well.

 

Then I broke my ankle. Playing one cold winter’s night I got fouled, my foot got caught in the turf and crack. I was shattered. I’d had a few injuries, but nothing like this.

 

I pushed hard to get back as soon as I could and even harder when I knew we were going to be playing Chelsea in the Europa League in the knockout stages. But I wasn’t ready.

 

I flew to London with the boys and watched as we were 45 minutes away from knocking Chelsea out. We’d won 1-0 at home and were leading 1-0 away before Fernando Torres, John Terry and Frank Lampard scored and they beat us 3-2 on aggregate. They went on to win the tournament.

 

That year we won the league five weeks before the end of the season. It was an amazing time, so special.

 

 

 

A SLAP IN THE FACE

After I started playing again I was still having trouble with my leg. You want to do the same things you did before, but you can’t straight away. I came back too early, but now I just had to keep going.

 

We qualified for the Champions League and before a game I did an interview and the guy asked me, ‘What does it mean to you?’

 

I stopped and thought about it and then I said, ‘Well, when I was a kid I used to wake up at 4.30am and watch the games. I didn’t care who was playing, but my ring-tone is the Champions League theme song. This is a really big thing for me.’

 

I didn’t realise just how big until that moment. It gave me goose bumps watching it as a 14-year-old and to actually be playing in it 10 years later . . . it still gives me goose bumps to think about it now. I’ll never forget it.

 

We didn’t do too well in a strong group that included Chelsea, but it was a hell of an experience.

 

But, football being football, something else happened. Halfway through my second season at Steaua the owner was sent to jail. He had a lot money and power and ended up doing some stupid stuff, mostly away from football.

 

He loved my work and the fact that as an Australian kid I was just running and going 100 per cent and having fun and doing the job very well, but then it went from that to him apparently not liking me anymore.

 

I don’t know who was telling him stuff while he was in jail, but he must have been getting the wrong idea about something.

 

The club started dicking me around and were hardly playing me. Then a club in Russia wanted me and Steaua said, ‘No, we want to keep him, we want him to do his rehab, we want to win the league with him.’

 

It would come to game day and I’d be the 19th man and not told why I wasn’t playing. I didn’t get paid either. Everyone got paid except me.

 

I’d ask about money and they just kept pointing to the owner and he was in jail.  I couldn’t go and speak to him – I didn’t even know the language.

 

There was something more to it than meets the eye, but I never found out what.

 

Then, after playing for 10 minutes in four months, they gave me a run and three days later, when I obviously wasn’t ready, they made me start in the Romanian Cup final. Then they took me off in the 44th minute. Not at halftime – the 44th minute.

 

It’s the Romanian Cup final. It’s the biggest slap in the face you can get. It’s them saying, ‘You can leave now.’

 

I ended up getting paid most of my money. Clubs can’t play Champions League if they owe players money, so they had to pay me and have me sign off on it.

 

I had a meeting with them and said this is what I’m owed, including bonuses. They said, ‘You can’t prove the bonuses,’ so I got none of that.

 

But I got the rest. I refused to sign anything until I saw the money in my account. I left the club, got something to eat and 20 minutes later I checked and the money had gone through.

 

They just didn’t want to pay me unless they had to.

 

Daniel in SuperCupa 2013 .

Posted by Daniel Georgievski on Friday, 11 July 2014

 

 

SORRY MUM

It looked like there was going to be an opportunity for me to play in Germany after that, but it didn’t work out and then I got a call out of the blue from an agent asking if I wanted to come back to Australia and play for Melbourne Victory in the A-League.

 

I didn’t know much about the competition. It hadn’t started by the time I left Australia. So I called my dad and said, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Have you done what you wanted to do over there?’ I told him I’d like to keep doing it, but that, yeah, I’d pretty much satisfied myself.

 

Trying to play in the Asian Champions League seemed like a good idea, a new challenge, and Victory was a big club. So I came home.

 

I’m glad I did, or I wouldn’t have met Emily through friends in Melbourne. Marrying her will be bigger than anything I’ve done or will do in football. You can only play football for so long. Marriage is for life.

 

I ticked all the boxes I wanted to tick after I flew out of Sydney as an 18-year-old kid taking a chance on life as a footballer in Europe. I won club titles, I played Champions League and Europa League, I represented Macedonia, I met a lot of great people and I travelled the world.

 

I’ve won titles with Victory and now I’m part of a revival under Ernie Merrick at Newcastle Jets. These are exciting times.

 

I consider myself a winner, but I don’t brag about it. I just do my job as well as I can and if we win a title I make sure I enjoy it.

 

When we won the league in my first year at Steaua, we were paraded on a double-decker bus in the middle of Bucharest. There were about 100,000 fans there. The champagne was flowing and I threw my jersey and shorts into the crowd. Everything but my underwear.

 

Someone took a photo and my mum wasn’t too happy when she saw it. But what do you do?

 

‘Sorry mum, but we were champions!’

 

Daniel Georgievski  -  Contributor

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