Our “Mariners around the World ‘ continues this week as we follow the progress of Joey Jevtic and Jake Jovanovski, two promising Mariners youngsters who are working hard and continuing their stint over 15,000 kms away with OFK Belgrade in Serbia.
We caught up for a chat with the boys this week.
Q : How are things going with your new club in Belgrade?
Jevtic : so far so good. Thanks to my Serbian passport ,I am able to play with the first team here as the first team coach saw enough for me to be included with the first team squad. The first team is fighting for promotion to Division 1 in Serbia this season – if we succeed it would be a very important milestone for this club as it looks to rebuild to its former status as one of the leading clubs in Serbia.”
Jovanovski : “ While Joey stayed in Belgrade training with the first team, I was lucky enough to be included in the under 19 squad and travelled to Macedonia with the squad went for an off season camp there.”
Q : That’s all good news – how are you coping with it all ?
Jevtic : “I have been training with the first team since the start of our second week here. The level is very high and demanding and the standard is really high . I’ve played a part in all three of the first team friendlies in February which was great. I feel the time spent with the first team and being away from home is really important for my own personal growth. In terms of football I feel my football is improving from week to week.
“Feeding off all the other players professional mentality here and the whole environment of the club itself makes you want to maintain the high standards, not only as an individual, but also throughout the squad.”
Jovanovski : “The training camp in Macedonia was an incredible experience especially playing games against top European clubs such as FK Vardar from Macedonia and Greek Club Aris Thessaloniki. It was the perfect way to prepare for the resumption of the season after the winter break here.”
“We played 4 games during the training camp. We only suffered 1defeat to Aris Thessaloniki, who are currently 5th in the Greek Premier division. We lost that game 1-0 in a tight game – and to be honest we were unlucky to concede during the game as we dominated the game throughout the 90 minutes.”
“We bounced back from this setback with a 1-0 win over FK Vardar, the largest club in Macedonia, a club whose first team plays regularly in the Champions League - it was fantastic to get a win against a top Macedonian side – especially on their home turf.”
Q: And how are you getting on with your new team mates ?
Jevtic : “Well my Serbian has been improving greatly since I arrived ,which has been very helpful in settling in with the team and getting to know my new team mates. The first couple of weeks were a bit tough but I definitely feel I have settled in well now and thanks to my improving Serbian it’s helping me greatly in getting closer with the other players in the first team squad.
“To be training every day and to be surrounded by so many experienced players - many of who have played at very high levels in their careers - is really helping me improve as a player. While it is challenging to be away from home and fighting hard for a place in the first team, I’m really enjoying the experience so far and I am really looking forward to the season restarting and looking to help this great club win promotion.”
Jovanovski : “The camp was really intense – it consisted of a strict training schedule of double sessions every day that pushed every player to perform at their best and to play a premium quality of football at all times.”
“The standard is at a really high level, which as a young footballer is the ideal environment to improve one’s own skills. Getting a feel for it all doesn’t take long once you have the first session under your belt - football is football, you have to do your best whatever challenge you face.
“While the camp was demanding throughout it was a great opportunity to get to know my new team mates well which is important for settling in well. For any football team preseason tours become more than just the football camp . I feel it really helped in terms of building stronger relationships outside the pitch with my new team mates and I am sure it helps ensure that the chemistry and better understanding we have built with each other is evident on game day.”
“We were constantly in each other’s company; having meals and travelling together and staying together in the same hotel for a week really helped us as a squad to bond so that hopefully when the season restarts after the winter break it will translate into good performances and wins on the pitch .“