Education has always been important in my family. But football has been my life.
I grew up in Yugoslavia, a country where sport carried a high social importance. At school, we had two hours of sports lessons a day and were encouraged to play other sports beyond that. I played basketball and boxed. In the end, though, I decided to play football for Uzice, where I studied.
When I was 23, I went to Belgrade to play with Partizan. I’d got married a few months earlier. A house was included as part of my contract. That was very important. I was the only one of my peers who owned a house. My parents were very proud.
When I extended the contract, because I had children, the club gave us a bigger house. That’s really important because you can’t live on football alone – you also have to think about having a family. About taking on responsibility.
Away from football, I started to study sports science at university. I remember the final test to pass the diploma. It was about the dead-ball strategy, both in attack and defence. The work I did then has been talked about a lot at the university since.
Training and studying was a huge effort. Studying for the exams while on camp with the team, in particular, but it developed me culturally as a person.
“I learned from Boskov that it is not good players that make a team. It is a good atmosphere”
When I was 28, I played outside Yugoslavia for the first time. I moved to Turkey, to play for Fenerbahce.
It was a special time. I already had two children, and from my point of view Istanbul was, at that time, the most beautiful city in the world. A city of two oceans. Of two continents. And one with a history very much linked to the old history of Yugoslavia.
In my second season there, we became champions with a goal I scored against Galatasaray. A goal where I smashed my head in! I ended up in hospital that night.
But something happened that influenced my decision to leave. There was great political turbulence in Turkey at the time – which in time led to a coup d’état by General Kenan Evren. I had a family, two kids. Even though I was in a beautiful city where I really enjoyed playing, I decided to leave for Spain.