I first met Stefan in 2012 when he was 12 years of age. He attended our 1st International Player ID with Wolves that year. Since then, he has progressed through the ranks of Canadian soccer and last weekend, at age 17, made his professional debut for Seberian team Radnički Niš as an attacking midfielder. He has signed a 4 year professional contract with Radnicki Nis which is a reflection how highly he is rated.
Stefan has been kind enough to share his experiences with me and help inspire our next generation of Canadian players on how to fulfil their dream of playing professional football in Europe.
1) What were some of the challenges you faced trying to realize your goal of playing football in Europe?
My goal since I was a young boy was to play professionally in Europe. I’ve been on many trials in Europe but a challenge for me was not having a European passport. It was difficult to get a visa. So I had to stay patient and wait for my chance.
2) If you had to advise young players from North America how to succeed in Europe what would your advice be?
For young players trying to succeed in Europe, it takes hours and hours of training. I would say be on the ball as much as you can. Just keep training and training. For my case, before I went on trial for the first team here, I needed to prepare my self extremely well. Physicality wise and mentally. Hill sprints, runs, technical work on the ball, diet, early bedtime, and rest were components to my success. Preparation is very key.
3) How many hours do you currently train/week and what is the breakdown ie % of hours spent on technical development, tactical development, physical and mental training?
I train 4-5 hours a day. 2 hours with the team and another 2-3 hours on my own. At training we spend 2 hours on the ball, technical work, small sided games, and tactical stuff. Also we do a lot of fitness at training. Sprints, longer runs ,etc. 3 days a week after training we have gym session which lasts around an hour. After trainings I take a nap to rest my muscles because at professional level rest is crucial. So after my rest, I either go for a run or go to a near by field to train. I usually go with a goalkeeper so I can practice my finishing, dribbling, etc. Lastly, every night I do ab workouts and pushups. Everyday I push myself to get better and better.
4) Did you spent any hours practicing on your own growing up? If so, how many?
Growing up, I spent many hours practicing on my own. Either on my own or with my friends. Whenever I didn’t have training, I would go practice. It was naturally for me.
5) What support do you think young players from North America require in order to succeed in Europe?
To succeed in Europe you will need some kind of support. Having support from your family, coaches, and friends will definitely help achieve you goal. My parents were very supportive of my dream which really helped me. Especially my dad. Also, you may have to sacrifice some things. Such as living alone, and being away from your family. Here in Radnicki Nis, I’m living alone.
6) Any other thoughts you would like to share with young players?
My advice for young players is to work hard and never give up on their dream. Hard work really does pay off. Also patience is a key part to success. I was very patient before getting my chance to show myself in Serbia.