Marconi Stallions’ coveted number one goalkeeper Nenad Vekic is one proud Australian and made his feelings heard when asked how he and his young family were coping during the COVID-19 crisis that has changed society as we know it.
“We need to be grateful to be in such a country with great resources and support in what have been unprecedented times experienced by all.
“If there is any country you would want to be in during times like this it is surely Australia, we are all very lucky.”
Since the temporary football lockdown, Vekic has spent time enjoying precious moments with his beautiful family, namely watching his four-month daughter Liliana kicking major life milestones firsthand.
“Luckily myself, family and friends have not been directly affected by the virus itself, but it has had a substantial effect on our everyday lives.
“Our 4-month-old daughter Liliana has had to hit some major milestones in isolation over the few months, first with the resulting smoke from the bushfires and now COVID-19.
“It has been hard for my wife more than anything as she has been stuck inside.
“Family is a huge part of our lives and it has really affected us not being able to see them or have them over.
“On the contrary, there are always positives that come from these unfortunate circumstances, one of them being the family time I’ve had with my wife and daughter.
“Spending all day every day with them has been like a mini holiday and we have really enjoyed it.
“We cook together, exercise together, binge on Netflix and we still haven’t killed each other so it has been great.”
The 30-year-old shotstopper has had some time to reflect and think about life as an NPL footballer which has seen the Stallions star take a trip down memory lane on many occasions as well as pushing the keeper to reflect on the finer moments in life.
“Besides pulling my hair out, watching games from the 80’s and 90’s and engaging in robust discussions regarding the state of football in the country in the comments section on social media, I have utilised this time to put together a football trophy memorabilia cabinet with some awesome achievements with some of my best mates.
“I have taken a trip down memory lane and realised how time goes by very quickly, especially in the football world.
“I turned 30 and realised I only have another 15 years in top-flight NPL football so it has made me very eager to return.
“It is a very interesting time for society but for us footballers who play in the NPL, it is comforting to see that we aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of the isolation.
“I have been following some of the big footballers around the world and if we have anything in common with them beside the big pay checks, it’s the love for the game and the urge and desire to kick anything around in the living room (toilet paper rolls).
“It is comforting to know that as a footballing community we are all in it together.”
Vekic’s teaching duties as a PE Teacher at Bossley Park High School has kept him busy during what has been a tumultuous period for many Australians job wise.
“I have been very fortunate as a teacher to still have a job.
“It does come with its challenges i.e. social distancing, online learning etc, but as I mentioned, I am just grateful to be in a job and part of such a great working environment with some very good friends at Bossley Park High School.
“With no students at school in the back end of last term, I uncovered a secret talent in table tennis.
“We participated in the BPHS COVID CUP, unfortunately I ran in second to Neil Mann, current Wollongong Wolves TD and more notably former Hull City fullback.”
Fitness and staying ahead of the game has not been a problem for Vekic who was lucky enough to have set up a quality gym in his garage keeping the Marconi number one fit and raring to go should we see football resume in 2020.
“I have always kept myself active, I am very lucky to have a great setup in the garage so I’ve got the convenience of a home gym.
“I also live in an estate with some awesome running tracks.
“Basically I make it a point to train at least every second day, I go for road runs and throw in some weight sessions in the home gym.
“Being a PE teacher I’ve always valued physical activity of any sort.
“The big challenge is not knowing when we will back to football, so setting targets and goals gets a little difficult.
“My golf swing has improved though, I’m hitting a few more down the middle for a change.
“However, nothing can replicate football training, being out on the pitch with your mates and working towards the weekend.”
Like so many talented footballers we are fortunate enough to see playing in our top tier NPL competition, Vekic echoed his thoughts on what he’s missed most about our beautiful game.
“You can’t replicate the feeling you get when your teammate can’t score from 6 yards for an entire week at training then scores a belter two weeks in a row to set the team up for a dream start to the season (Frangie).
“This can’t be replicated in a home gym.
“I am feeling the pause of football more so because of the start we had to our season.
“Some would say it’s a dream start, although it is only three games, it did feel like the team was finally playing to its potential and at the level a team like this deserves to be at.
“I felt a great buzz around the entire club in those three weeks and to see all that halted really hurt and has left a very strong urge and desire to return and pick up where we left off.
“Tseka and Flea have been in contact with the boys regularly and are keeping us close and focused as they share a lot of peoples optimism that we will be back.
“In short we are preparing for a return of some sort and seeing the boys on Zoom sessions and in group chats, the feeling is positive, I think we can continue from where we left off, with the same motivation, determination and drive to really be competitive this season.”
Staying focused, staying safe and above all, always checking in with the football family is something Vekic has held close to his heart during these tough times as it is this that will ensure the community will use to fight to get through to better times post COVID-19.
“I think the biggest message is perspective.
“We always need to focus on the positives.
“There are people around the world who are feeling this a lot more than what we are, however, I don’t want to take away from the ones who are struggling in these unprecedented times.
“We are lucky to be part of a community (football) which is pretty tight knit and there is always support there for those who want and/or need it.
“That’s the beauty of football, it extends beyond the pitch.”
Below is probably one of the funniest self-isolation clips any of the NPL NSW fraternity has put together, bravo Nenad!