Thursday, August 18, 2011

Generation Who? Hungary for Success

first published @ GGArmy website
Over the following months, will sit down with a number of young Australians plying their trade both in the A-League and abroad, filling you in on the next generation of Socceroo stars. First up we speak to Sasa Macura, an Australian currently cutting his teeth in Hungary

Australia’s next group of young footballers have been given the glamorous title of Generation Next. Players like Mathew Leckie, Ben Kantarovski and Tommy Oar are all well known in the Australian football community. Take a look at the latest Aussies Abroad data base though and you will notice that 59 of the 170 players plying their trade overseas are under 20 years of age. Many of them have moved overseas without ever playing in the A-League. I like to call this group of players Generation Who?
One player on the list is Sasa Macura, playing in Hungary for MTK Budapest II in the B II East division.

I was curious not just about Macura, but also the other names on the list I’ve never heard of. Why are all these young boys overseas? Are they any chance of playing first team football? Does the FFA know they exist, and lastly why play in the Hungarian second division over the A-League? Was Pim right? Is training in Europe better… (you know the line)?
Well I was wrong about the second division. When I asked Macura to give me a synopsis of his year so far I learned that the 19 year old defensive midfielder, born in Knin, Croatia, and who had attended Narrabeen Sports High School, was actually signed as a first team player.
“I came to MTK Budapest at the end of pre-season in August. I was signed as a first team player and I am on the roster for the first team and I was training with them. However because of my age I need to be playing, and it’s great because MTK have a youth squad that play in the Hungarian second division,” explained Macura.
“The team mainly consists of very young players. In the second division we are currently fifth, and have only lost four games this season. I have played in every game and I have scored one goal. “
MTK Budapest has a great history in Hungarian football. It last won the league in 2008 and finished sixth in the last campaign. Márton Bukovi is one of the club’s most famous names, and along with Béla Guttmann and Gusztáv Sebes, was part of a group of three Hungarian coaches who pioneered the 4-2-4 formation. It was later adopted by national coach Sebes, himself a former MTK player.
It was this system that Bukovi, together with Péter Palotás and Nándor Hidegkuti, used to pioneer the crucial deep lying centre-forward position.
During the early 1950s these MTK players helped Hungary become Olympic Champions in 1952, Central European Champions in 1953, defeat England twice and reach the 1954 World Cup final.
A number of young Australian players have made their breakthrough in the first team for their European clubs this season and Macura was one of them.
“For the first team I have started and played in the League Cup, also in the Hungarian Cup I came on as a substitute, and started a game in the quarter finals. I have been on the bench many times for the first team in league games.”
“Also In January, I went with the team to Antalya, Turkey for the winter pre-season, and played against Slovakian FC Senica, Russian FC Rostov and Serbian Fk Jagodina which was an amazing experience.”
So how does one make the journey from Narabeen to Budapest? Macura filled us in.
“I attended Narrabeen Sports High School, and completed my HSC in 2009. I started off playing locally with Dee Why Swans F.C and then moved to NSW representative clubs Northern Tigers and Apia Leichardt Tigers. My last club [in Australia] was Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
“I was offered a trial by Miodrag Pantelic, the Sporting Director of Serbia's Super League team Vojvodina Novi Sad. Vojvodina offered me a contract, however, at the same time, through my manager I was offered an opportunity with Hungarian side MTK Budapest. Being 18 years old, I saw this club as a perfect start to my career because they focus on young players, and have also produced a number of great players who are playing in top European clubs.”
In March earlier this year there was a training camp held in Duisburg, Germany for the young Australians playing overseas. I asked Macura if he was approached by anyone at the FFA?
“Unfortunately I was not approached by the FFA, it would have been a great experience to be at the training camp however it’s their choice and I respect that. Being eligible to represent Serbia, Croatia or Australia, I would have liked to be part of the Young Socceroos.”
A lot of the kids from Balkans cite their father as their biggest influence and Macura is no different.
“To this day it’s my dad. He played football during his time and taught me from a young age. Apart from that, during my time at Northern Tigers I was greatly influenced by two great coaches, Anton Ivancic and David O'Keefe. Both of whom have a great deal of knowledge and passion for football.”
Getting used to the professorial environment in Europe can be tough, especially compared to the level of football found in Australia. Macura discussed this idea with, and his answer demonstrates his dedication to the sport.
“For me, it was always about football and I was and still am willing to give everything for it, so it wasn’t hard to get used to the routines of everyday football. I love the professional feeling at the club and how they go about the daily routines from eating correctly to making sure you are getting enough sleep to complete each training at a maximum. I guess a difference from Australia would be the great deal of discipline and commitment to training.”
A number of players, like Macura, are going straight to Europe and bypassing the A-League. The young Australian notes that he was not approached by a top flight club in the country, but does see that route as a possible option.
“I was fortunate enough to be offered a trial in Europe and I told myself that if it didn’t work out I would pursue an A-League contract. My motivation for staying in Europe is to one day play in the Champions League or Europa League, which I believe will have a great impact on young players leaving Australia. I was not approached by any A-League clubs, however I was told if I stayed playing in the New South Wales Premier League I had a great chance to join an A-League club. But instead I moved abroad.
“I think the A-League is improving every year, it’s attracting some well-known players, and it’s played in world class stadiums. The standard of play can even match the European leagues.”
When asked about his impressions of football in Hungary, the young midfielder gave a positive response.
“Football in Hungary is mainly technical, the ball is played on the ground and the teams look for a passing game; the playing level can match to other European leagues without difficulty. The top clubs in Hungary have a great fan base with some die hard supporters, the local Budapest derby between Ferencvaros and Ujpest attracts a lot of attention, sometime for the wrong reasons, but the passion for football is very high among the Hungarians.”
Hungarian football seems to be on the rise with their youth teams getting some excellent results. And according to Macura, that was one of the reasons he moved there.
“Hungary wants to push for the European and world stage and has started off focusing on establishing young players. Although not being Hungarian, I see this as a perfect opportunity to be part of their goal and improve my football as much as possible, and it’s the reason I came here to pursue my dream and my passion.”
Wanting to get an idea of a week in a life of professional football player in Europe I asked Macura for an insight into life as a youth team player for MTK Budapest, both on and off the pitch.
“As a youth player at MTK, I train with the first team. Training is every day and time varies depending on what the coach wants to do. Sundays are mostly free depending on if the games are played on the day. Off the field, I relax at home, Skype with family and friends and explore the city from time to time, which is beautiful. I’m also doing my best to learn the language which I have to say is hard, however I’m doing my best to learn it.” finishes the interview with Macura by asking him for the best piece of advice he has ever received from a coach.

“To leave it all on the field. Be yourself and believe in yourself!”
There is a large number of young Australian footballers playing in teams you have probably never heard of, living in far off cities. The question for these players is, are you part of Generation Next or Generation Who? Only time will tell, but after making the first team in his first season in Europe, has the feeling Macura belongs to the former..

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