For aspiring young athletes, the path to the top is a full time commitment, fraught with challenges and setbacks both on and off the pitch. It requires extreme dedication and perseverance as well as talent, and athletes must make the most of the limited opportunities that come their way in order to succeed. When it comes to the world’s most popular sport it’s no different and young footballers throughout Australia face an uphill battle in their pursuit of a professional career.
The PS4 National Premier Leagues represent the second-tier of football competition in Australia, just below the A-League, and are seen as a breeding ground for developing the best in young footballing talent. The PS4 NPL has produced some of Australia’s best players, such as Mat Ryan and Tom Rogic, who now ply their trades for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, having worked their way through the domestic football pyramid before heading overseas.
Thanks to a collaboration between Playstation 4, Football Federation Australia and Sydney FC, young footballers now have another path to the A-League in the form of the PS4 Player Pathway Award. Announced alongside the start of the 2016 NPL season, it’s a golden opportunity for the NPL’s best players looking to pursue a professional career.
24 players from across the PS4 NPL will be invited to an intensive training camp later this month where they will be judged by an expert panel on a number of key criteria. The winner will receive a two-week trial with Sydney FC’s Youth League side and with it the opportunity to further their footballing career.
Man of Many spoke to Jonathan Grozdanovski, a striker with Blacktown City FC and one of the bright, young stars of the PS4 NPL. He’s one of the 24 selected for the PS4 Player Pathway Award and is also an accomplished personal trainer who’s currently studying for a Diploma of Building. We spoke to him about what it takes to make it as a footballer in Australia, how he balances his various commitments and the significance of the PS4 Player Pathway Award.
What are your top 3 tips for excelling as a footballer in Australia?
• Hard work – It’s not all about what you do at training, it’s the things you do after and when you are by yourself that will make all the difference.
• Dedication – Being dedicated to the sport, you need to put your all and leave your all on the field and at the training pitch regardless if it is pre-season, normal season games or a grand final. It all counts.
• Perseverance – Even though times may be tough, having that perseverance and true grit to do your best to achieve success.
How does personal training help with footballing and vice versa?
Luckily enough it all falls under the same category. Footballing has taught me a lot of leadership skills and qualities, especially in 2015 being named captain for the Blacktown City U20s squad. I show this at my fitness studio where I lead clients to achieve amazing things they thought that they would never be able to accomplish.
Through personal training I have learnt how to communicate with all kinds of people of any age (from 18-80). This definitely comes in handy when speaking with coaches, players, and board members.
Keeping fit through football and working on my fitness at the studio myself is a massive advantage; it gives me the extra edge when playing in the final 10 minutes of the game. Training specifically for football in the gym is made easy with the variety of gear and equipment we have at the studio. All the hard work put in at the gym during the week really enhances my performance on the field.
How important is the PS4 Player Pathway Award for giving young footballers a chance at success?
It’s a massive opportunity; it attracts the likes of head coaches to the young and up and coming football talent across Australia. Giving young boys the chance to match it with the NYL boys and also have a chance against an A-League side is great for anybody to see how they compare against the most elite footballers in Australia.
How are you feeling mentally and physically for the camp?
Mentally, I’m feeling good. Having the mental strength is a great edge on everything. Having self-belief is also important when thinking about what I need to prepare for the PS4 Player Pathway camp. Physically, I’m feeling great. Coming off the back end of a season feeling fit, healthy and strong is a great way to prepare for the camp.
How do you find time to balance football, personal training and social life?
For me, football and personal training are my top priorities. Besides family, these two things are the most important to me. Finding time for a social life can be a little difficult, but I usually try to schedule some time on the weekend and during the week to spend with my family, girlfriend and squeeze in a FIFA session on PlayStation with mates.
Football takes up three nights out of the week, whereas personal training is a full-time commitment. On top of all of this, I also study a Diploma of Building, which is a fair amount of hours study per week that only adds to my hectic schedule, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s your ultimate aim in football?
I would love to play professionally for any country in in Europe or in America. They’re two of my favourite parts of the world and to be able to play professional football there would be amazing. Playing in the PS4 NPL has laid the foundation for a professional football career for me. Now I’m hoping success at the Player Pathway Camp will help in taking that next big step.
Jonathan Grozdanovski Profile
Club: Blacktown City FC
Favourite Player: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Achievements: PS4™ NPL NSW Men’s U20 top goal scorer 2015 (27 goals), PS4™ NPL NSW Player of the Year, PS4™ NPL NSW Grand Final Winner 2015 (as captain), PS4™ NPL Premiership Winner 2015