BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, June 7, 2012
After breaking into the starting lineup last season with Velez Mostar, American forward Danijal Brkovic has signed with Bosnian champs Zeljeznicar and will play in Champions League qualifiers.
Brkovic, 21, played in 21 Bosnian Premier League games last season with Velez Mostar and scored three goals. After impressing with his play for a Velez team that finished in 11th place in the 16 team league, he has made the move to a Zeljeznicar team that regularly contends for the Premier League title.
The deal with the Sarajevo-based club is a two year contract running through the end of the 2013/14 season.
Last season Zeljeznicar won the league with 71 points and was eight points clear of second place Siroki Brijeg.
"I'm very happy I joined FK Zeljeznicar," Brkovic told YA on Wednesday. "It was a tough decision in my life but life is all about making tough decisions. I chose them because I think I will develop better as a player there."
Zeljeznicar was founded in 1920 and since the creation of the Premier League in 2002, they have won the title twice. The first was in 2009/10 and this past season was their second.
Brkovic is optimistic that with the way the team is built, they can win the Premier League title next year and he is hoping that he will be in the team's starting lineup.
"Zeljeznicar is a very good club," Brkovic explained. "Every year they are mostly at the top of the table. So I do expect a very good result next year. I will try my best to be in the starting 11."
The club is indeed expected to compete for the Bosnian title but they have never been able to achieve much success in European competitions.
In their last appearance in the UEFA Champions League in 2010/11, Zeljeznicar lost to Hapoel Tel Aviv 6-0 on aggregate in their first qualification playoffs.
Last year in the Europa League, they won their first playoff series against Romanian club Sheriff Tiraspol but were defeated by Maccabi Tel Aviv in their next round by an 8-0 aggregate scoreline.
"Hopefully we get an easier opponent and hopefully we go farther," Brkovic said of Zeljeznicar's upcoming Champions League campaign.
Despite the daunting task, Brkovic is very excited at the opportunity to play in European competition for the qualifying rounds of the Champions League.
"I'm very excited about it," Brkovic emphasized. "I can't explain the feeling. I've always dreamed of playing at higher levels and slowly my dream is coming to where I want it to be."
Brkovic was born in 1991 in Dubrovnik during the Yugoslavian civil war. Eventually he and his family moved to the United States in Binghamton, New York where he became an American citizen and developed as a player.
After finishing high school in 2010 he moved to Bosnia to start a professional career. Late that year he signed with Velez Mostar after impressing on a trial.
Now after 18 months at Velez, Brkovic will continue to raise the bar in moving to a bigger and better club in Zeljeznicar. He does, however, hope that this is only the next step in a career on an upward trajectory.
"I'm happy with the way things are going," Brkovic concluded. "Hopefully I make a bigger transfer out of Boznia after Zeljeznicar."