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The regular season has finished in Serbia and, after missing out on the playoffs by one position, it is all over for my team. Since joining in January I have enjoyed having the opportunity to discover another country and experience their futsal.
When I joined the club, together with a young Bosnian player, the team was under the threat of relegation with 4 points after 7 games. We collected 16 points in the remaining 11 games to finish 7th so I am relatively happy with how it went.
The squad includes one player who went to Thailand for the 2012 World Cup and a 20 year old who is now part of the Serbian national team and will be an important player for them in the future.
My time here gave me more chances to play as a pivot as I did on occasions last season in Croatia. The team were usually playing 4-0 but decided later to sometimes switch to a 3-1 formation and I ended up playing pivot quite a lot despite usually being a sweeper.
at the back where you see more of the ball and can have more of an influence. I still need to improve in playing as a pivot but like with everything I am sure that will come with more experience.
After my time spent here and in Croatia the previous season I have observed that this region has a wealth of talented players. This can be seen in the recent results of the national teams of the countries that formed Yugoslavia before it was broken up.
Croatia finished 4th as hosts of the Futsal Euro 2012 and in the same tournament Serbia were knocked out to runners up Russia in a narrow 2-1 defeat. Further Slovenia is an up and coming team with many good young players and I expect to see them do well in the future.
The ‘Playstation generation‘ has yet to arrive here thankfully and so the children still spend a lot of time outside playing. This is probably part of the reason why the region has a strong sporting pedigree. They do very well in many sports such as handball, basketball, football, waterpolo and volleyball.
Street futsal is very popular and most children grow up with the sport. This is supported by futsal courts which are everywhere. In the summer they are many street tournaments with good prize money on offer. These are very social events with many people coming to watch. It is a shame this culture is non-existent in the UK.
For me the prominent characteristic of the players from this region is their ability in 1v1 situations. Some of the worlds best 1v1 players come from here such as Marko Peric of Serbia, Rok Mordej of Slovenia and Tihomir Novak of Croatia. Whilst Peric has already played in the Russian Super League I believe there are several other players from the region who have the potential to do well in the world’s top leagues.
One weakness they possess is the lack of high level tactical knowledge. The standard of coaching here is not so high with a few exceptions. Tactically the level of play could be much better. In my opinion if this was improved then they would be able to compete with the likes of Spain as on technical ability alone they are just as good. This can be seen with the success of Croatia at Euro 2012 who were a generation of young players brought through under the guidance of Mico Martic, one of the world’s best coaches.
Another thing that would help their development is improved organisation. Despite most players being paid and all teams getting at least a few hundred fans to watch their games it is still quite amateur in the way they promote the sport. There is so much untapped potential. This, for me, is one of the biggest obstacles restricting the development of our sport not only here but around the world and I will post about this soon.
My love for playing will keep me as active as possible over the summer. I may return to Serbia to play some tournaments and have also been asked to help with the organisation of two international youth tournaments, one for U16s and one for U18s, on the Croatian coast in July and August (there are still a few places left if anyone is interested).
I will stay in Serbia for a little while longer and enjoy the sunshine before heading back to England. I have the opportunity to return here next year but I will consider my future over the summer.
Vidimo se Srbija!!