Singapore Premier League • February 13, 2014
Ljubojevic Driven by Tigers’ Championship Dreams
Written by: Kenneth Ho
After 19 years in the S.League, Balester Khalsa has managed to pull off a coup by signing their first marquee player in Goran Ljubojevic, and the 1.90m striker revealed it was the challenge of fighting for the title which convinced him to trial and eventually sign for Balestier Khalsa.
“Mostly because of coach Marko Kraljevic. Because I spoke with him two, three times and he told me that we are going to try to be champions, and I said I will try to come here and try to help the team,” Ljubojevic said.
Once a promising talent in Croatia, Ljubojevic had played for Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb from 2004 to 2006 where he scored 16 goals in 42 games.
Yet, when the clubs came calling for his services at the age of 24-year-old, the former Croatian under-21 international suffered a knee injury while playing for Genk which required intensive surgery and rehabilitation, and subsequently a plethora of injuries kept him out of the limelight.
Having played in Europe, Ljubojevic brings with him a vast playing experience but felt that he could only assert his leadership qualities and start advising his Balestier teammates after he proved himself by scoring goals.
“The problem as a striker is they don’t respect you until you start scoring so I cannot talk a lot until I start scoring,” he said.
“So first of all I have to prove myself to be a good striker then I can try to help the team tactically.”
Ljubojevic was caught off guard by the high hopes his club has for him, but reiterated his desire was for the team to do well and it did not matter whether if he scored goals or not.
“I didn’t expect they are going to put such a big burden on my back,” he mused on the 25-goals target he was given.
“But if you ask me (whether) I would like to score five or 10 goals and to be champions, or score 25 goals and be fourth or fifth in the league I would chose the first one always. I am a team player and I would like to win some championship.
“I am type of player that depends a lot on the team. Last three or four years, I was playing in the clubs struggling to stay in the league, and they were mostly playing defensively.
“I could not show my qualities because I was too far from the goal and I hope that this club does not stay behind, and that we are going to go forward.”
Despite being wary of building up expectations, Ljubojevic revealed he was confident he could perform well in the S.League.
“I am very confident, the problem is not my confidence, the problem is to stay healthy. I had a lot of injuries which pulled my career back,” the Croatian said.
“I was playing really good, and was really close to playing in the really big leagues and that knee surgery from 24 put me down a lot. It’s all up to me now to perform.”
Balestier Khalsa new coach Marko Kraljevic raved about his new striker, and insisted Ljubojevic would surprise fans in the league, but also added his team had to provide the services required for Ljubojevic to shine.
“When crosses come in, he’s very good with heading. I tell you something, playing for Dinamo Zagreb is something in Croatia. 22 years old, to sign, he was the biggest signing that time, he was a big hope. He played with Eduardo, Corluka,” Kraljevic said.
“He was a little bit injured, no luck. He should be somewhere in the English leagues, this is my opinion…. he will surprise. He’s playing for Croatia national teams, Dinamo Zagreb, it’s pride, he’s something special.”
Balestier Khalsa will kickstart their Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League campaign against Aide Iskandar’s Courts Young Lions on 23 February at the Jalan Besar Stadium.