Imagine a different world, one where you haven’t the faintest idea of what footballers get up to off the field. A life lived in the beautiful city of Ljubljana, capital of a country where football isn’t even the national sport, and you’ve barely even heard of Sunderland. Jaka Katrasnik* is a keen fan of Slovenia, and his club, NK Olimpija, all the same and looks forward to a result tomorrow that would keep England on our own front pages for the wrong reason … and there may be a second Slovenian fan along soon to rub it in
Salut! Sunderland: The first two games leave Slovenia in a strong position. But how bad does two unimpressive draws make England, and how lucky were you to avoid defeat against the USA?
Yes, we have good chances for advancing to the next stage. In my opinion England didn’t play as good as this team can. I believe England has very good individuals but from seeing their two games I would say they lack team spirit and motivation. The Slovenian team is the opposite. Our players are not as good as England’s. They don’t play in the best European football clubs, as England’s players do. However they are very good as a team. They have team spirit and motivation. They have played very good in qualification (eliminating Russia) and they are playing very good now in the World Cup. They did have some luck against the USA. But so did the Americans. The refereeing was horrible from the start. Dempsey should have gotten a yellow card for that ugly start on Ljubijankic in the first minute. There were more yellow card fouls committed by the Americans that the referee didn’t see. The American goal was disallowed because of Bocanegra’s (3) foul on Pecnik (7) (see the image above). True, the Slovenian players were fouling the Americans also but the referee decided the Bocanegra’s foul was more severe.
When you qualfiied and saw the other teams in your group, what were your thoughts and how far did you believe Sloveia could go?
I didn’t believe we would be able to go into the elimination round. I thought we could beat Algeria and maybe tie with USA or England. If we would be very, very lucky we would advance into the next round.
What about the World Cup generally? Some of the games have been fairly dull but do any stand out for you as being worth remembering?
The Slovenia-USA game was the best from my point of view. Second best was the Argentina-Korea Republic game.
Tell us about Slovenia as a footballing nation and as a country – do you ever regret, in footballing or any other terms, the break-up of Yugoslavia?
I wouldn’t say football is the national sport of Slovenia. I think winter sports (alpine skiing and ski jumping) and basketball are more popular. It is difficult for me to comment on regretting the break-up of Yugoslavia as I was only 6 when it happened. If Yugoslavia still existed it would have a fantastic football and basketball teams.
Which of your players do you regard as the strongest and in which positions are there weaknesses?
Koren is the team leader and very strong in the midfield. Novakovic is with 16 goals our best striker, he plays for FC Cologne in Germany. Our defense was one of the best in the qualifying, as we received only 4 goals in 10 matches. In the two World Cup matches I would say our weakest point was our defense. They were not as focused as they should have been, especially in the second half.
And what of England? Who are the players you fear and where do you see our shortcomings? Did you think we played as bdly against the USA as some English people have said?
From what I’ve seen so far I would say England has a good defence and midfield but has trouble in the front. They should be scoring more. I think Rooney is playing badly (especially against Algeria). However if Rooney will be more motivated against Slovenia he will be the most dangerous player. England played good in defence and midfield against the USA but you had trouble at the front. You had good chances but didn’t capitalise on that.
Is the Slovenian press as critical and intrusive as the British variety when it comes to football stars? is there anything like our media’s treatment of the WAGS (wives and girlfriends of players)?
No, definitely not. I don’t even know which of our players are married and which aren’t. I don’t think anyone has the star status. Our press is critical when the team plays badly but they are not as ruthless as the English press.
A lot of Salut! Sunderland readers, and supporters of other Premier League teams, are much more passionate about their clubs than about the national team. Do you support a team in Slovenia and do you understand such preferences?
To be honest I don’t follow any of Slovenian football clubs. The clubs in our football league are terrible. All of our national team players, except two, play in foreign clubs. I understand that clubs in England play very good football that fans like to watch. Unfortunately I cannot identify with them. I do support the NK Olimpija football club from Ljubljana.
There has been relatively little controversy so far apart from the meltdown of France! In terms of football, does this mean the referees are winning the battle for fair play over cheating (diving, feigning injury, trying to get opposing players show red or yellow cards. shirt-pulling etc)?
There is still a lot of cheating going on. How could the referee show the red card to Kaka?! I still can’t believe how that happened. And there was the hand play by Luis Fabiano. I don’t think the referees are wining. I think they are losing. I think technology is the solution. It would improve the objectivity of the referees significantly, while still minimally disturbing the pace of the matches.
Who is your favourite team in the World Cup apart from Slovenia and who do you think will win if it cannot be your country?
Argentina is playing very well. They are my favourites. Brazil and Spain also have fantastic teams, though Spain is not yet showing its potential. I think Argentina will win the Cup.
Have you any knowledge of Sunderland AFC and have you ever seen us play?
No. Unfortunately not. I rarely watch Premier League matches.
Who are the foreign players. any nationality, you most admire?
Argentinians and Brazilians are one of the best football players in my opinion.
What will be the score between England and Slovenia?
From what I’ve seen from both teams I’ll say 2:1 for Slovenia. I do however fear England will be extremely motivated, as this is their last chance.
Jaka Katrasnik on Jaka Katrasnik. I am a junior researcher at the University of Ljubljana and come from Jesenice, Slovenia. I’ve been playing football since primary school, but only as an amateur with my friends. I support NK Olimpija from Ljubljana. Good luck to England on Wednesday (does he really mean this – ed?!