It is a wonderful reward for Galekovic, who continues to work hard at the back while possessing arguably the sharpest reflexes of the current keepers in the A-League. There is certainly no better-equipped keeper to face the daunting task of staring down the barrel of a spot kick with a nervous trigger-happy striker. I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Eugene after learning of his call up to learn a little more about the man behind the gloves.
Firstly a big congratulations on your recent selection in the Socceroos squad! I know it wasn’t the result the team was looking for, but how was the mood in the camp? Do you tend to learn anything new that you can bring to your game by being with the likes of Schwarzer and Ryan?
Not many Aussies know of or are aware of Ali Al Habsi, captain and goalkeeper for Oman, but he’s had fine year for Wigan in the EPL. The Socceroos weren’t at their best on the night but I felt he was the difference between a draw and getting the much-needed three points. Do you agree?Thanks! The result was disappointing for the team on the night but given that we were down 2-0, the team showed plenty of fight and courage to come away with a very important point towards qualifying for Brazil. The experience of being part of a Socceroos is tremendous and it certainly improves your focus. The increased intensity of every session is what you notice the most as you’re amongst the finest Aussie footballers playing both here and abroad) and their professionalism and experience just rubs off on you.
What’s your first memory of playing football as a young lad?He’s certainly a fine keeper and pulled off some wonderful saves throughout the game. It’s certainly not surprising given that if you’re playing in the first team in the EPL you definitely need the talent and skills he possesses. He and Schwarzer had a good yarn after the match in the middle also which always builds the union between keepers.
Was it always football or did you experiment with other codes?It was my young junior playing days and is something that you never forget as the mates you made then are your mates forever. I certainly have very fond memories of playing in the park in many positions but the game was all about fun and spending time with your mates.
Who has been the most influential person/s in your football career?I played most sports growing up in Victoria, but my parents were against me playing AFL as they felt it was a little rough. When I was 14 I had to make the decision between football and cricket…thankfully I chose the later!
When standing alone in front of a striker taking a spot kick, do you have any strategy? Or is it pick a side and hope for the best?Definitely I would say my parents. They have been my biggest supporters and never grizzled or complained when I had to be driven to training or games all around the state. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Apparently rumor has it that Mark Schwarzer still wears his old favorite shin pads from his early days at Marconi? Do you still hang on to treasures from the past?I don’t really have a strategy as such, but before the striker steams in towards the spot I try and stand as tall as I can for a long as I can. Then as soon as the ball is struck I throw myself as hard as I can to the side I choose. I also try and watch the video of the dedicated spot kickers in League to gauge their process. Unfortunately it simply comes down to luck, but you always have to give yourself the best chance possible.
Your nickname and how and when did you get it?I didn’t know that about Mark! But it is really funny because I still wear the same shin pads I had from my early playing days. They are that worn and old that there is no more foam padding left and just two bits of plastic. Still I’d feel strangely uncomfortable if I didn’t wear them on every match day.
Any strange superstitions pre game routines? Have you ever noticed how Buffon always marks out the box before each half? Very meticulous and professional?Sadly I don’t have a nickname that too much thought went into, but all the boys call me “Euge” as in short for Eugene.
Many pundits say you end up a keeper because you couldn’t make it out on the pitch. Did you start as a keeper or fall into by chance by a desperate manager?A lot of keepers used to do it back in the day like [Gianluigi] Buffon, but as you can receive a yellow card from the officials it’s generally frowned upon so I don’t do it. I used to always have a shave the night before game day but on one occasion I didn’t and we had a good win, so I don’t really stick to the routine anymore. It’s a strange thing but most superstitions exist from either coming off a win or a heavy loss.
Who was/is the keeper you looked to learn from when you were learning your craft?As a kid I tried playing in all the positions from up front, mid field, defense to keeper but always gravitated ended up in the goals. My teammates always thought I was the best choice and that it was I should be. I always enjoyed it so it wasn’t a case of being lumped with the role but rather being the best man for the job.
The proud thing about football is the many links with so many diverse cultures and backgrounds. How important is your cultural background to you and the game of football in general?I guess growing up I always enjoyed watching Peter Schmeichel and Mark Bosnich. They were incredibly gifted but hard working keepers, but in saying that they also possessed that flamboyance and confidence on the pitch that makes them very attractive to watch.
What’s the worst football blunder you’ve made in your career to date?I am extremely proud of my Croatian background. In Croatia football is number one! The friends I made when I was younger playing football for Chelsea Hajduk and even before then are still my friends today. Football is one of those games that brings people together and is the great leveler and a common ground that everyone can relate to and talk about in any social situation.
Who is the best former defender you’ve played behind?It would have to be the goal I let in last season in our Asian Champions League game. It was a real howler, but it’s important to always shut it out quickly, refocus and move on. You will always have a bad day from time to time but the more work you put in off the pitch reduces the chances of that happening.
Who do you rate as the best keeper in world football today?It would have to be Sasa Ogenovski. He’s very imposing and physical player who never lets the ball through to the back without a fight. Sasa is an extremely tough customer and was wonderful defender to play alongside when he was at United.
Who has/had the toughest shot to stop at Adelaide United?Gianluigi Buffon. He’s been at the top of his game for so long. Also you cannot go past Iker Casillas from Real Madrid and Spain. He’s just about done it all Captained Spain to win their first World Cup; two European Championships and five La Liga titles. Both are sheer class in keeping.
Who do you usually room with on the road?Sergio van Dijk (when he was with Adelaide), Bruce Djite, Tomi Juric.
What was the last movie you saw?I room on my own. Captaincy certainly has its benefits sometimes.
The best and worst pitch you have played on?“The Next Three Days”
Your three ultimate dinner guests?Best: Toyota Stadium Toyota City in the Club World Cup in 2009.
Worst: Probably Newcastle…the surface can make it tough for keepers.
My lovely partner; Michael Jordan; Lionel Messi.
Shootout from the SpotPre-game meal
Favorite overseas team?Fruit Toast with butter
Favorite TV show?Leeds United
Best holiday destination?My Kitchen Rules (MKR)
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