As the youngest player on the Slovenia team, goalkeeper Alan Jurjevic is enjoying being able to compete for his country alongside players who are more than double his own age.
The 22-year-old, who hails from Trbovlje in the south east of Slovenia, hopes that he will be able to have the same level of fitness as some of his older teammates do in the future.
“I have all older guys in the team with the oldest being 61-years-old. One is 58 and the other is 55. I look up to them and they are really good players. I hope that when I am their age I will have the same shape that they do.”
Speaking of fitness, Jurjevic’s inclusion in the team alongside his older teammates and his participation in the Homeless World Cup has seen him change his attitude completely towards exercise.
“When I arrived in Cardiff I became a totally different person. I have a lot of motivation and energy. At home I was always tired, depressed, and stuff. After our first training session I went to the gym and worked on my fitness. I’ve improved my physical and mental health being here.
“I will continue with these feelings and these motivations so I won’t go home and become the same person again I was when I was there but I continue in this type of healthy living.”
From a youth spent playing football for fun on the streets of his town, the transition into representing his country against teams from across the globe is one he is enjoying immensely.
“We play Brazil and Bulgaria today, we played USA yesterday and we also played Hong Kong and a friendly match against Belgium also this afternoon. I find it really interesting. It’s always a new experience and in every match I learn something new.”
Jurjevic, who spent time going from friend’s house to friend’s house after finding himself without a permanent place to live in the recent past, was never aware of the work of the Homeless World Cup until he became part of the Slovenian street football team.
And since arriving in Cardiff, he has been helped along via the support from his friends and family back home who are keeping tabs with his progress and that of Slovenia at the tournament.
“My father is in Austria, he works there and he is watching every match, and my mother is watching my matches in Slovenia, and a lot of my friends are also supporting me from home.”
Words: Craig Williams
Images: Daniel Lipinski / Soda-Visual