Ugarkovic Stepping Up
Steven Ugarkovic came through the systems of two the most prolific produces of talent in Australian football, Sydney United and Marconi. Having started at United from the Under 6s he made the move over to Marconi at the Under 18 level. after just the one season with the Stallions, the midfielder headed to Europe for a trial.
“My old coach Davor Bajsic suggested I go on a trial over to Osijek,” said Ugarkovic. “After a month trial I signed for the youth team and after one season with the Under 19s I signed a professional contract.”
Brought up on the game by his father, who would do extra trainings with him after his club trainings, Ugarkovic felt the time was right to test himself in the competitive European environment.
“At the time I thought it was the right choice to see if I could make it in Europe,” revealed the former United junior. “Being in Europe is a different game and lifestyle which I dreamed of my whole life.”
While enjoying the way Andres Iniesta and Luka Modric play, the youngster models his game on who he describes as “the complete midfielder” Bastian Schweinsteiger.
“My natural position is defensive midfield. It’s where I enjoy playing most. I have filled in as right back for a few games in the league but I prefer being in the midfield.”
For many young Aussies who go abroad there is a period of adjustment on and off the pitch which is even more difficult when the native language is not English.
“The hardest thing was learning the language on and off the field which was a problem at the start. On the field the speed of play which now I am used to.
“The biggest differences are that most trainings are done with the ball and the tactical side is very advanced compared to back home. Also the coaches I feel have a better knowledge of the game as they mostly played at higher levels in Europe.
“But the Australian style also has benefits on the side of fitness and hunger which is hard to teach in Europe.”
At only 19, Ugarkovic has already been transitioned into the first team of the 1.HNL club with the player admitting himself that he is surprised by how quickly it has happened.
“Looking at it now, I am a little surprised because I didn’t really realise that only a few months have passed. Being accepted by the older players in the team has helped and I guess my hard work in training is paying off.
“I have been happy with my performances. In the cup I got an assist and last weekend getting a rating of 6.5 out of 8 in the newspaper. I’m just waiting for that first goal,” he said.
The question of loyalty always comes up for players of dual-nationalities but for this Sydney-sider there is no doubt his first choice is Australia despite already donning the famous red and white checks.
“My goals for this season are to become a standard starter and hopefully work towards another few international caps to add on to the two I already have for Croatia (U19s) or even better Australia.
“Long term goals are to move onto a bigger league and club in Europe and play for my country, Australia.”
Making his name in front of the famous Kohorta Osijek fans it will be interesting to see if the boy from Baulkham Hills can become equally well known back home.