In part two of Goalden’s interview with Vuk Popovic, we find out what he believes the differences are between the European game and the North American game.
Goalden: what are the differences you’ve noticed between the European soccer game and the North American soccer game?
Popovic: the main difference is the quality of the game itself. European soccer is based more on skill, technique, passing and movement without the ball. The North American game is all about physicality, strength and stamina. There are a lot of long balls, less movement, but more fitness. Barcelona is a great example of modern football. Pure class, skill, technique, finesse, a lot of movement without the ball, opening up space, limiting touches and making the game simple. This is what brings victories to the team and joy to the fans of modern soccer.
Just by watching professional soccer games on television we can see the difference, but playing in two different environments makes it even harder. It took me almost a full year to adjust to North American style of play. Soccer is a game that improves every year and no matter where in the world we play it we can always learn something new and something useful that can make us a better player. I learned a lot about the importance of fitness and being ready to go at any moment while playing in the U.S. which is something that I lacked in the past.
There is a general consensus that the European game is further ahead of the North American game in many regards — namely quality. Do you believe this to be true?
Popovic: I believe that Europe has the best football in the world. As I mentioned before, the European game is more skillful, faster and more attractive. After four years spent in the United States, I began to notice what the difference might be, however, I may be wrong. The whole system in North America needs to change in order for soccer to become better here. Starting from an early age, kids should have quality coaches who will make selections, and have the most talented and athletic kids on the team. Soccer should not be a place where parents will send their kids just to use up the child’s spare time, or to fill out their schedules. These kids should not be playing soccer if that is not what they enjoy doing.
Again, a lot of dedication to this sport is needed for it to improve on all levels. Starting from a young age is when kids should have the best treatment, the best coaches, and best practices, most organized, where they will learn everything about the game, both on the field and on the paper.
A more professional environment needs to be brought to this part of the world for the game to improve. Another factor that is very influential to the game is the culture itself. North America is a place where American football, baseball, basketball and hockey are sports to be played. In Europe it is soccer! American football is all about strength which impacts negatively soccer. The culture of North Americans is that American football is the example for all the other sports which doesn’t allow soccer to come through and shine. This might be the answer to why the game here is so physical and different.
I assume that North America is not ready for soccer yet, maybe some day. We all see improvements which is great. The U.S. national team did great in the last World Cup in South Africa, hopefully we see Canada in the big show as well. This is the land with a lot of talented kids, but the right approach to this sport is still missing.
Goalden: what are some of your short term goals?
Popovic: One thing that every person should have is goals. People who have goals are usually more successful in life. I have always had goals in my life and so far I was lucky to accomplish a lot of them. One of them was to come to college and graduate, but still be active in soccer. In just a few months that goal will be accomplished.
Something that I want to focus on in near future is playing at the next level; playing professional soccer. The way I will get there is by training hard, being focused, dedicated and consistent to what I do.
For another look at Vuk in action, watch part two of his highlight video below.
Goalden will continue to follow Vuk’s success and we look forward to others like his.