Where are they now?

Discussion in 'Central Coast Mariners FC' started by MrCelery, Jul 16, 2014.

  1. MrCelery

    MrCelery Well-Known Member

    It's always nice to keep tabs on our ex-players, whether it be their current status, or a look back at their careers.

    What better way to start than with one of the Club's most respected heroes, Mile Sterjovski.

    This from FourFourTwo:


    When Mile Sterjovski was lining up in the tunnel against Brazil at the 2006 World Cup, he had goose bumps. And while this is unsurprising for any player making their debut in the world’s biggest sporting event, for Mile, one childhood memory made the moment particularly significant.

    “When I was playing in the old NSL for Sydney United, Jason Culina and I used to do extra sessions on our own because we were semi-professional”, says Mile.

    “We used to dream about playing in the World Cup so we would shoot goals and pretend we scored against Brazil, role playing our celebrations. You imagine things; you set goals; you dream. I’ve done that for as long as I remember.”

    And while standing next to the likes of Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, a tap on the shoulder from his old training buddy was soon followed by a whisper he’ll never forget.

    “‘Remember when we were boys and we used to imagine being at the World Cup playing against Brazil?’ Jason said, in my ear. And that’s when it became surreal. Here we were, doing it, in reality.”
    Even just recalling this makes him choke up, he admits. He also is the first to admit he’s a lucky man.

    Not only has he been able to spend the last 20 years playing professional football for a living, but he’s done so with the endless support of his wife, Sharon – dating all the way back to his first overseas contract with French Ligue 1 side, Lille.

    “We were so young,” Sharon recalls of their joint decision to move to Lille together. “It started off as maybe being a six week stay, but I just wanted to be there with him.”

    Mile was so excited by the French adventure of living with his girlfriend of a year that he wanted everything to be perfect. He selected a beautiful apartment for them – but then effectively camped in it until she arrived, sleeping only on a stolen yoga mat for weeks, so they could make it their dream home together.

    “She came around three months after I first got there and I thought we should choose the furniture together. So I stole a yoga mat from training and my only other furniture was a pillow, bowl and spoon” he says, laughing.

    Sharon, still touched by the gesture, adds: “And when I got there, we furnished the apartment together.”

    Sterjovski’s big move to Lille from humble beginnings in the old NSL was a dream come true for the Wollongong-born winger. He can’t remember a time he didn’t want to ‘go overseas and make it’ in football - and his first big breakthrough came when he was selected for a spot at the AIS, giving him the self-belief he could make it as a pro.

    “I knew how many good players had come out of the AIS and I knew I had to have something about me to be selected,” he says. “I had a dream and I was determined.”

    Ultimately, it led to a move to top-tier European football, but the young Mile soon found himself having to quickly learn the ropes to be accepted overseas.

    “I knew they meant business,” he explains. “The players don’t embrace you for a long time. They see young players as their adversaries, brought in to replace them. They will do anything to stop you getting in their way.”

    It wasn’t long before Mile, then 21, experienced his first reality check involving a competing teammate.

    “I hadn’t been there long”, he recalls. “I was starting an away game and the pitch was wet and soft. I was still trying to work things out and I had forgotten my screw-in boots.

    “I asked another player with the same size to borrow his spares, and the player in my position overheard me and marched straight up to the coach. I got hammered. There was a huge thing about it and they threatened to transfer me out of there.”

    The fierce rivalry doesn’t just stay in the change room, according to Sharon. The wives and partners were equally competitive when it came to mingling with each other.

    “There was a player in Mile’s position who was a bit older,” she says. “His wife completely ignored me every time I saw her – it was like I didn’t exist. Another wife whose husband was a goalkeeper told me that she wouldn’t dare talk to another goalkeeper’s partner.

    “They don’t make you feel comfortable that’s for sure. And it was so foreign to us.”

    Despite an initial adjustment phase, Mile relished the opportunity to play professionally in a country with such a rich footballing history. “I remember calling Sharon when I first got there and I said: ‘This is what football is about.’ I knew I was becoming a better player – the standard was so good; the players were so good; everything was just so professional.

    “Looking back, it was an incredible time and it took my football to another level.”

    Sterjovski’s four year stint at Lille was jam-packed with moments that aspiring footballers around the world only dream of, with the gifted footballer making appearances in both Champions League and UEFA Cup games for the French club.

    “The good thing about being over there initially was the expectation of me wasn’t high. I was a young Australian player, and I think it worked in my favour”, Mile says.

    “I wanted to prove them wrong. As more was expected in the second and third year, I definitely started to feel the pressure. But I learnt to deal with it.”

    Then there was Manchester United and the private jets… Mile and Sharon admit that only now do they realise the magnitude of it all.

    “It’s amazing that now, as we talk about the things we experienced, do we really understand how big some things were”, Sharon says. “Not to sound selfish, but for me personally, it was hard to settle in France. I was alone a lot and I was finding my own way.”

    But being the partner of a professional footballer had its perks – including being whisked away with fellow partners and wives to see big matches.

    “They flew all the wives to see Lille play Manchester United in the Champions League, and that was an amazing experience,” reveals Sharon. “But again, only as I talk about it – now having two football-mad boys of our own - do I realise how massive it actually was.”

    While the nervous Aussie lined up at Old Trafford in front of a crowd of 65,000 – next to players he had watched on television in a previous life – he felt nervous. But as soon as the whistle blew, he knew it was game on.
    “You immediately forget you are playing against players like David Beckham in front of this massive crowd,” says Mile. “You just play, and enjoy the moment.”

    Mile’s move to Lille was also the first that earned him a jersey of the Green and Gold variety – and he was officially christened a Socceroo.
    “Getting my first cap was amazing”, he says, looking at Sharon, who smiles at the memory. “I didn’t think it would happen so soon after joining Lille but back then, being involved in the Socceroos had very much to do with whether you were playing overseas.

    “I remember Sharon driving me to the train station on the way to my first camp. Words cannot explain how proud I felt to be part of the national team. It was my ultimate goal.”

    But for all the new heights his career hit in France, there also came crashing lows.

    “When I first got there, things were going very well. We achieved a lot as a team”, he recalls. “But halfway through my contract, coaches changed and he wanted to bring in his own players and do his own thing.

    “But I made it my mission to stick it out. I had that mentality to keep working hard and make it work. To this day, I think that French football is one of the best in the world.

    “It develops great players and for me, having just come from the NSL – where we would train just a few times a week with one game – it took my fitness and football to another level.”

    Part 2 to follow...
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2014
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  2. MrCelery

    MrCelery Well-Known Member

    ...Part 2

    Towards the end of his contract with Lille, Sterjovski was presented with two options: either stay in France, or move abroad. One thing he knew for certain was that he was ready for a new challenge.

    “Scott Chipperfield told me FC Basel were interested in signing me and so I agreed to go,” Mile reveals. “In hindsight, I would have loved to stay in the French league simply because I loved the football, but I don’t have any regrets.

    “FC Basel, being such a huge club that was always in the top two, helped me get into the World Cup squad.”

    Switzerland for the Sterjovskis presented an entirely different challenge from what they experienced in France - their twosome soon became a family of three.

    “I was seven months pregnant when we arrived at Basel”, Sharon recalls. “It wasn’t about just us anymore – we had a baby to consider.

    “We didn’t know what to expect at first but they were really strict. They would go away on camps often and barely had any days off.

    “I’m lucky he made it to the birth!”

    According to Mile, time off football for personal reasons was not only frowned upon, but it could earn you a rest on the bench. In his time overseas, he missed several important events but one in particular really stood out – the funeral of his aunty.

    He adds: “My aunty passed away in Macedonia while I was in Switzerland and so my dad called and asked if we could be there – it was his sister and we were a close family.

    “I asked the coach if I could go and he just looked at me blankly and said: ‘Were you close to her?’

    “I told him she was my aunty and yes we were close. He said he’d think about it and not only did he not let me go, but he didn’t play me because he said I probably wasn’t ‘mentally right for the game’.

    “I told him that I was mentally right because I had to be. Being a footballer was my profession. I was bloody pissed off.”

    For Sharon, while she was content to dedicate the great majority of her life to football for Mile, the birth of her kids were the only occasions where she expected her husband to be present.

    “To the wives in Europe, it’s normal for football to come before everything,” she says. “While we were over there, one Swiss player was on the field while his wife gave birth and they had “Congratulations! You’ve given birth to a girl” on the sign during the game.”

    ”It’s almost like as a wife you aren’t allowed to be upset if your husband has missed his child’s birth.

    “But they are just passionate about their football. It’s number 1 to them.”

    Mile nods in agreement: “That’s the thing. Of course you don’t want to miss things like births and funerals, but it’s this passion for the game that makes it so amazing.

    “From a professional and footballing perspective, this is what you dream of – everything is Football Football Football.”

    For Sterjovski, the established FC Basel presented a whole different ball game – pun intended – to a comparably modest club like Lille. As he puts it, he was going to a ‘team of champions’.

    “The fans were…” he says, trailing off, “… used to winning…

    “They were aggressive and passionate and they are a big reason why it’s a high pressure environment. They don’t like losing.”

    With riot squads being common at high-stake games or derbies in Europe, Mile recalls a moment when cops were desperately needed to contain violent fans.
    “We were first and we were playing the team that was second for the championship”, he vividly recalls. “And in the absolute last kick of the game, the other team scored and we lost the championship.

    “Fans were fighting and trying to run on the field. We had to stay back for three hours after the game until it settled down.”

    Sterjovski credits his regular game time at the Swiss powerhouse as the reason for his 2006 World Cup selection, but he wasn’t always convinced he would make it to Germany.

    “I was pretty much a regular in the Socceroos since 2000, but for around eight months leading up to the World Cup, I wasn’t being selected for camps and was left out of the qualifiers”, he tells me, with daughter Lilly in his arms.

    “I remember watching the qualifiers with Sharon in our apartment in Switzerland and we were so happy they qualified – but I felt disappointed I wasn’t part of it”, says Mile.

    “But it gave me the drive to get to the World Cup. I thought, they’ve done the hard work to qualify, now it’s my turn to do the hard work to get to Germany.

    “I had these simple goals – to be as fit as I can; score as many goals as I can, and create as many assists as I can. I ended up being involved in over 60 games in the season.

    “And I was named in the World Cup squad.”

    Mile is a big believer of fate. While he singles out not being part of the World Cup qualifiers as a low point in his career, he also suggests that it possibly gave him that extra fire in the belly to get himself a spot in the official squad.

    “Who knows, maybe if was part of the qualifiers I would have gotten too comfortable with my position and never made it there after all,” he says.

    Sterjovski modestly laughs off the suggestion he was part of the Golden Generation.

    “I felt privileged to be part of that squad but I definitely don’t see myself in the same category as the Vidukas, the Kewells,” he says. “We had some players play in some very big leagues. I was just proud to be around such quality players.”

    Part 3 to follow...
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  3. MrCelery

    MrCelery Well-Known Member

    ...Part 3

    As well as the on field action, the 2006 World Cup also brought some very special off field memories too.

    “It was the ultimate experience as a player”, he reveals. “We stayed in this magnificent castle that was owned by a Michelin star chef and we had every meal prepared for us.”

    But life wasn’t as glamorous for Sharon and their then 18 month old child.

    “I drove a few hours from Switzerland to Germany with Luka back and forth because I couldn’t miss it. I had to be there,” she says.

    “I was on my own and Luka would sleep on my shoulders at the game. We didn’t even see Mile – I wanted to celebrate with him but they go off with the team. “

    Mile interjects: “A great reason for my success has come from a supportive wife. She had to look after the kids on her own a lot; she was alone in foreign countries while I was away. She has made a lot of sacrifices for my career.

    “She’s always said: ‘Whatever you need. I am there for you and we’ll work it out’.”

    Sharon adds: “But I would never say I had anything to do with his success. Mile’s success is his own.”

    Any footballer will tell you that it takes a support network make it in the game, and as Mile explains, Sharon simply took over the role that his parents played as an aspiring footballer growing up.

    “My parents sacrificed everything for my football”, he says. “My dad was a taxi driver, and he would sometimes do a late shift, come home at 6am, and take me to football at 8am.

    “My family obsessed over football, it was in their blood.”

    According to Sharon, her father-in-law’s favourite story to tell is that Mile was born while he was at a football game. And as Mile likes to think, it might have just been fate.

    Mile’s time at Basel was followed by a short stint in Turkey for Hacettepe Spor Kulübü and then Premier League side Derby County, but it wasn’t long before he would start being courted by A-League clubs for a return to Australia.

    “While the football and players were great, Turkey was a difficult time because the living conditions were so different to what we were used to,” reveals Mile.

    Sharon agrees. “We lived in Ankara near the Embassies and we would get searched for explosives just driving in a shopping centre car park.”

    Derby County was a dream move for the couple – for Mile, it gave him the opportunity to play in the Premier League and for Sharon, it presented life in an English-speaking country, similar to Australia.

    “Even though my club was hugely unsuccessful in that season – I don’t think we even won a game – it was an incredible time for us as a family,” Mile says.

    Then the A-League came knocking and after offers from Gold Coast United and Central Coast Mariners, the Sterjovskis found themselves going West, where the winger was unveiled as the Perth Glory marquee in season 2009/10.

    But Mile wants to make it clear that his return to Australia was not about money.

    “People assume that when you come back to Australia as marquee, it’s about the money, but it couldn’t be further from the truth,” Mile reveals. “There were better financial options for me at the time, but it just felt right to come back.”

    Mile admits as a footballer there was an initial adjustment phase being back on home turf – literally.

    “I had to get used to the heat, and because of that, the game was slower than I was used to,” he says. “But I really enjoyed being back in Australia and Perth was just a perfect place for the family. Everything was so clean and green and we spent a lot of time at the beaches.”

    Close to the end of his three year deal with Glory, Sterjovski found himself presented with an opportunity to go to China – one he admits he wanted to pass on if Perth extended his contract.

    “Perth said they wanted to re-sign me but wanted to wait. I told them money wasn’t an issue, I just wanted security,” he reveals. “But in case a Glory contract didn’t come into fruition, I took the China deal.”

    In an experience not dissimilar to his Turkish spell, the Sterjovskis soon realised living conditions in China weren’t ideal for their little family.

    “Just after I had decided to leave and we sat there wondering ‘What next?’ – I got a call from Graham Arnold,” he says. Fate? “It was…”

    After two seasons at Central Coast Mariners, and with his 35th birthday coming up this month, Mile Sterjovski announced his retirement from professional football.

    “It was a number of things”, he explains. “I always wanted to play until I was 35 and I’ll finish the season that age. I wanted to retire while I was playing well – I wanted to finish on my terms.”

    Mile reveals that he first had plans to retire within a couple of years when he was first lured back to Gosford. And for that reason, he feels more at peace with his decision.

    “I really enjoyed being at the Mariners – being in NSW, it felt like I was back at home,” he says. “The way Graham Arnold did things from a footballing perspective meant he was able to get a lot out of me.

    “We won the Grand Final - we had a great team. I think above all else, the coaching staff understood me as not just a footballer, but as a person. They’ve given me the opportunity to be a mentor to the younger players and I have really enjoyed that part of it.”

    And while he admits he’ll miss many aspects of being a footballer for a living, he looks forward to doing things with his family that he couldn’t do before.

    “Sharon has supported me through it all and now it’s my time to give back to her and my children, Luka (9), Sonny (5) and Lilly (2)”

    Professionally, Mile plans on continuing work on his Football Academy, called ‘Mile Sterjovski Football Coaching’ which he runs alongside his boys’ football club, The Redbacks, at West Pennant Hills in Sydney.

    “There’s a special kind of satisfaction that comes with coaching kids and seeing them progress,” he says.

    “I want to share my experiences with these kids – the stuff I’ve learnt, through playing overseas and the A-League. “

    Mile Sterjovski has been labeled many things in his football career – Socceroo Stalwart, Golden Generation Member, A-League Marquee and now has a Football Academy bearing his name.

    If you ask him of his ultimate career highlight, he’ll predictably say being at the World Cup, with a close second being his goal against Inter Milan at San Siro – a feeling he (and Sharon, who had a kicking baby in her belly at the time) describes as incredible.

    But as his illustrious career comes to an end, for Mile, life is now all about his family. And while he won’t ever say goodbye to the sport he loves, he knows its time for a new chapter.


    Read more at http://www.fourfourtwo.com/au/features/going-extra-mile#OCYzcteQtRabrj8J.99
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  4. Wombat

    Wombat Well-Known Member

    Lovely bloke.
    We didnt see the best of him due to his age but you could see patches of brilliance and quality.
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  5. eenfish

    eenfish Well-Known Member

    That run and nearly goal in the grand final was magical. Turned nothing into the best chance from open play of the whole game.
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  6. nearlyyellow

    nearlyyellow Well-Known Member

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  7. style_cafe

    style_cafe Well-Known Member

    Where are they now?
    Matt Simon.....any updates?
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  8. Atomic

    Atomic Well-Known Member

    Are people aware of Matty's recent back story? I'm not sure if it's suppose to be kept confidential or not. Based on that I've heard, there's no reason why it should be confidential, but I can understand the family's desire to keep things on the down-low.

    Anyway, as a result of his personal issues, apparently Simon is a bit of a mess, physically and emotionally. Whilst he is back training with the team, I'm hearing he is a long way off being match fit, particularly since his thoughts are still overseas.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  9. sydmariner

    sydmariner Well-Known Member

    will he be ready for rd 1
  10. shipwreck

    shipwreck Well-Known Member

    Very much doubt it, hope everything is ok and he uses it as fire in his belly to become the menace he used to be.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  11. style_cafe

    style_cafe Well-Known Member

    Looks like Matt Simon has missed most of the pre-season training then.
    Without that, one could expect him to take half a season to catch up & he really needs a big season this year to ensure he stays with us.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  12. dibo

    dibo Well-Known Member

    Paul O'Grady is having a beer in the same pub as me in Kiama.
    • Winner Winner x 1
  13. sydmariner

    sydmariner Well-Known Member

    we need another CB don't we;)
    • Funny Funny x 1
  14. MrCelery

    MrCelery Well-Known Member

  15. sydmariner

    sydmariner Well-Known Member

    Would he be welcome back here
    • Disagree Disagree x 1
    • Funny Funny x 1
  16. localpom

    localpom Well-Known Member

    Not needed. :)
    • Agree Agree x 2
  17. MagpieMariner

    MagpieMariner Well-Known Member

    • Agree Agree x 2
  18. dibo

    dibo Well-Known Member

    We don't need a third choice RB.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. nebakke

    nebakke Well-Known Member

    Not even if we needed him!.. Although I know a lot of fans who would welcome him back...
  20. Gratis

    Gratis Well-Known Member

    Nah, we're all good for slanting hats and low-riding pants for now
    • Funny Funny x 1

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