Volleyball Globetrotter

Nikola Kovacevic | 15.10.2018 Łukasz Trzeszczkowski / newspix.pl
For Polish version click here / Po wersję polską kilknij tutaj

I came back to Poland after 6 years. I’m so happy about it because I remember my last stay to be exceptionally nice. That year we won the championship with Rzeszów. Since then a lot has happened in my life.

I’ve changed clubs several times and travelled a lot. I played in exotic leagues, such as Chinese and Iranian. All this means that my passport is tightly packed with stamps, and many recognize me as a cosmopolitan. Of course, I do like to travel, explore new places and meet new people.
However, this is not the main reason for my wandering. I always try to make logical and well-thought-out decisions. I use the opportunities that fate gives me and I do what I think is right at that moment, even if it means changing the country, and even if it happens every year. This is how I managed to play volleyball in 17 professional clubs and in 10 different countries in my career.
Which place was the best to live in and which to play in? What do I recall pleasantly and what not so much? Here is my personal ten.

In 2003, when I was 20 years old, I won the championship of Serbia, the highest possible achievement for an athlete in the country. The time has come to think about an international career.

Serbia

I was born in the Serbian town of Kraljevo. This is where my volleyball adventure had started very early. I also did try my luck in football, but my father and uncle were professional volleyball players, so my career path could have been no different. From the first practice alongside Dusan Boskovic, I knew that I wanted to follow my father’s footsteps and play professionally. My childhood dream had always been to perform at the Olympics, and I was fortunate enough to play there twice. I developed quickly, going through all the levels of the Serbian youth national teams. Soon enough, Kraljevo became too small for me. In order to develop further, I moved to the capital and signed a contract with Crvena Zvezda Belgrade. I was 16 at the time. Leaving my hometown was accompanied by fear and many doubts. However, I had no choice as I realized that to achieve my goal and improve my skills I have to move. Kraljevo is only 2 hours away from Belgrade. At that time I did not know that in the future I would move much more often and much further …

In 2003, when I was 20 years old, I won the championship of Serbia, the highest possible achievement for an athlete in the country. The time has come to think about an international career.

Łukasz Laskowski / newspix.pl | During the match with USA. World Cup 2014 in Poland

Greece

The choice fell on the Greek league, much more difficult than the Serbian one. It was a great challenge for me. I spent two years in Greece. In 2006/2007 season I played in Gamy Lamia team, and in 2009/2010 in Aris Saloniki. Aris fans were great and playing for them was a great honour. I will always think of them warmly, just as much as of the beautiful Greek beaches and delicious coffee. With the team form Saloniki I managed to win a bronze medal, which was a big deal for us. After the main round we took 5th place and nobody gave us much chance. In the quarter-finals we lost the first match with Iraklis smoothly 3:0. During the match, however, hot Greek temper came out. One of our rival’s supporters threw a can at my teammate Nikos Roumeliotis. Following that, Iraklis received a disciplinary punishment and was ranked 8th as a result. We advanced to the semi-finals, finishing the season in 3rd place.

Italy

Italian Peninsula is as close to my heart as the Peloponnese, and the league there is one of the strongest in the world. It has always determined my choices. As a young player, you must play with the best if you want to develop further. I returned to Italy three times during my career. The first step was Perugia. It was not by accident that I spent more than one season in the capital of Umbria as the only place outside of Serbia. I played there in 2007-2009. My first child, daughter Mia, was born here. It was also Umbria where I shared the locker room with one of my sport idols – Goran Vujevic. The next stages in Italy were Latina and Verona.

Russia

I came back to Russia three times as well. I spent the 2011/2012 season in Nizhny Novgorod, then 2013/2014 in Ufa and 2015/2016 in Novosibirsk. It was not easy to settle in during the first season. The climate in Nizhny Novgorod was definitely challenging as I have never experienced such cold weather before. My memories, however, have nothing to do with the weather. The atmosphere in the team was very warm and everyone was getting along very well. It’s amazing how human relationships can affect the perception of the place you live in.

China

In 2014, I transferred to China. Many may have picked it up as the beginning of a sports retirement, but it was not true. Currently, China is investing heavily in sports and the league there is developing rapidly; it can even be perceived as equal to many European ones. A year spent in Asia was something new and very exotic for me. I remember the time spent there very nicely, especially with my team Fudan University, as we won the championship. Shanghai is one of the best cities I’ve ever been to. Living there was wonderful.

Life in Paris was everything you could imagine – a great place, food and wine!

France

A shorter season in China has given me the opportunity to join the Paris Volley team and a chance for the second championship in one season. Unfortunately, after a very tough final we lost to Tours VB in the tie-break and finished the season in 2nd place. Life in Paris was everything you could imagine – a great place, food and wine! For me, this city is very special – it is here that I met the love of my life, and my son Noa was born. We have an apartment in Paris and I can easily say that it is my second home. I plan to live here after my career is over. I also had the opportunity to play in France two years later, in 2017, when I helped the Rennes Volley 35 team at the end of the season to qualify for Ligue A.

Private Archive | The meaning of my life – my family

Germany

In 2016 I signed a contract with the Berlin Recycling Volleys team. It was a very conscious decision. Our son was a month old then and we did not want to move anywhere. The most memorable time spent in Germany was the Super Cup against VfB Friedrichshafen. Mercedes Benz Arena was packed with 15,000 people. It’s an amazing experience to play in front of such a crowd. In the middle of the season I agreed to terminate the contract with the team. Thanks to this decision, an opportunity for another exotic adventure appeared…

Iran

I decided to play for the Iranian league for similar reasons as for the Chinese one. Iran has a strong national team and the league there is gaining prestige very quickly. I moved to Teheran to help the Paykan team in play-offs. Unfortunately, we did not win the championship. In the finals we lost to the Sarmayeh Bank, the team represented by Łukasz Żygadło. The Iranians are great and very hospitable people. I have made many new friendships out there.

Romania

I spent the 2017/2018 season in Romania. The club I came to, Arcada Galati, wanted to create the best team in its history and fight for the highest goals. Indeed, they managed to create a very powerful collective. My teammates were players well-known in Poland: Romanian attacker Adrian Gontariu, my compatriot and teammate, libero Neven Majstorovic, and a member of the Greek national team and former Jastrzębski Węgiel player, Dima Filippov. Together we managed to reach for the Super Cup and were a runner-up for the Romanian league championship.

Poland

I left the Poland for the end of my list. I played here in the 2012/2013 season in Resovia Rzeszów. Since the time spent in Greece I have never experienced such wonderful and committed fans as in Poland. That is why I am very happy to think about the upcoming season when I will be able to visit halls all over the country filled with fans again. I experienced real popularity here. In Serbia I can eat dinner in a restaurant and remain unnoticed. In Poland I was giving 50 autographs at random visits at the supermarket and was asked to take as many pictures with the fans. Amazing.
Returning to Resovia, we had a great team. The atmosphere was fantastic. I maintained very close relationships with Zbigniew Bartman, Krzysztof Ignaczak and Maciej Dobrowolski. Despite being 4th after the main season, we played wonderfully in the play-off phase. In the semi-final we defeated Delecta Bydgoszcz seeded with the first number, and then in the final we won with ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle.

Mateusz Bosiacki / Łuczniczka Bydgoszcz | Training in a new team

In the upcoming season our goals with Chemik Bydgoszcz are completely different. Nobody talks about the championship. We have a team consisting mainly of young players and a coach with a visible idea for the game. I believe that this will be enough, and we will be able to compete with every team in the league. I am very positive and enthusiastic, and I am looking forward to the beginning of the season!

In order for my story to be full, I cannot miss one more important chapter in my career…

At this tournament I was awarded with the title of the best receiver and on the top of this I welcomed my second child to the world, my daughter Ema. This special moment was incomparable to any prizes I have ever won!

The national team

I have been honoured to proudly play for the national team of Serbia for over 200 times. I shared the court with an outstanding generation of volleyball players, and together we achieved some significant successes. Our biggest one took place in 2011. I exactly remember the press conference before going to Vienna for the European Championship. Ivan Miljkovic, Marko Podrascanin and myself stood before the journalists and we unanimously stated that we would be happy with the 6th place. That’s how we evaluated our abilities. On the other hand, we all trusted our coach Igor Kolakovic, and we believed in his plan – to improve with every game of the tournament. Indeed, we started the first matches slowly, but with the duration of the championships we felt more and more confident, and eventually showed our abilities in the semi-finals. After a very difficult battle we defeated Russia 3:2 (25:23, 17:25, 22:25, 33:31, 15:13). In the final we defeated Italy 3:1 and won the European Championship. It tasted great, especially because many of our countrymen were in the Austrian capital cheering us in the hall. At this tournament I was awarded with the title of the best receiver and on the top of this I welcomed my second child to the world, my daughter Ema. This special moment was incomparable to any prizes I have ever won!

Aleksandar Djorovic / newspix.pl | Belgrade airport – celebrating the European Championship in 2011

Another great moment of my national career was 2010 and the bronze medal in the World Championships. We were one step away from the big final. In the semi-final we lost to Cuba 2:3 (25:22, 17:25, 29:31, 25:22, 14:16). With such a close result details play the decisive role. Very small details. I remember our disappointment, but we gave it our best. We didn’t have enough luck. However, we managed to rebuild and win the battle for the bronze medal with Italy 3:1. I remember the words spoken by our coach, Igor Kolakovic, who said he was very proud of our attitude and that we came back stronger after such a painful defeat with Cuba.

This is what my career has looked like so far. I strongly believe that this season in Chemik Bydgoszcz will be another beautiful chapter, and that it will not be just a background to my rich story.

Taking advantage of the opportunity, I would like to wish all the volleyball fans in Poland a lot of excitement and emotions in the upcoming Plusliga season. Let it be interesting and remembered by you for a long time.

With volleyball greetings,

Znaczek
Nikola Kovacevic 15.10.2018
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