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The city of churches draws best out of Vidosic after German journey

Nicholas Anderson - 27th November, 2012

The year is 1988.

A young Croatian family, the Vidosic's, have made the agonising decision to leave the small town of Osijek, Croatia behind for a fresh start on the other side of the world.

Father of the family Rado has accepted an offer to play at Queensland Lions in Queensland's state soccer competition.

Little were they aware when they arrived on Australian shores that they would also be providing their new surroundings with a second football ace in the family ranks.

As a two-year old, Dario Vidosic would arrive in Brisbane with a completely new life ahead of him. He and his family had moved away from all his relatives with only his immediate family of his parents, Rado and Jasna, and younger sister Iva by his side.

Setting up their base in the Brisbane suburb of Regents Park, the Vidosic family were amongst a very tight knit group of fellow Croatian migrants who had also looked for a new life away from all the conflicts in their country at the time.

Dario says that whilst it was difficult to come across to a country where English was not his family's first language it was made easier by the fact that there was a small Croatian community who could relate to each other in so many ways.

"We had a nice group of support around us... we would go down to Rocklea to the soccer club I was playing at and we would have Croatian food and have Croatian music. It was like being back in Croatia in some aspects but in Australia at the same time."

Dario first graced a football field on Australian soil at the tender age of six playing for local club Rocklea United, which was formerly known as Brisbane Croatia. Vidosic would play there until the age of 12 before moving onto the next level of junior football to a club nearby in Rochedale Rovers.

With his father at Rovers as an assistant coach for the club's first grade side, Vidosic would flourish during his four years in the youth ranks of the club. Rovers would eventuate to be the springboard for Vidosic to leap to higher honours in Brisbane as he approached the end of his days as a high school student.

With Vidosic's talents being made aware to many clubs throughout the capital of Australia's sunshine state, he opted to make the transition to Queensland Lions where the family name already had foundations built.

With Lions being seen in some ways the "feeder club" of the then up and coming A-League franchise the Queensland Roar, Vidosic felt that this would be the most appropriate move for where he wished to take his football into the near future.

"When I was 17, I was playing in the first team with Lions. With the big break between the old NSL and the new A-League, many of the boys from the Queensland Roar like Matty McKay and Alex Brosque were playing in the first team too at Lions which was great to play with them and it gave me a feel of where I needed to take my game to make the A-League standard."

Vidosic wouldn't play a part in the first A-League season, with the coach of the Queensland Roar at the time Miron Bleiberg suggesting to send Vidosic down to Canberra to the AIS.

Down at the AIS, Vidosic suffered from stress fractures in his shins throughout the duration of the six months spent there meaning there was little action on the pitch.

However, he credits his time there as being beneficial in so many ways for him not only as a footballer but as a person too.

"The AIS gave me my first initial taste of what it was to be a professional and living in the environment. With the seminars away from the field, it taught us about nutrition and how it important it was."

"We also had lectures from sports psychologists and other athletes down there who had a story to tell which we could learn from. It taught me about the various elements that were involved in sport not just about getting the ball at my feet, but about how to get the best performance out of myself."

Bleiberg then headed down to Canberra to convince Vidosic into returning to Brisbane to undertake his rehabilitation there and allow him to prepare amongst the playing group at the Queensland Roar.

Heading into the second season of the A-League, Bleiberg rewarded Vidosic's perseverance to get over his injuries with a contract for the Queensland Roar.

Little would Vidosic realise that his break into the top flight of Australian football would come in the opening round of that season.

"We were playing Perth at Suncorp and there were four of us and the reserve keeper selected for the bench. Spase (Dilevski) was carrying a niggle, so Miron gave him an extra week's rest meaning I was on the bench.

"I was sent on with about 20 minutes to go and I ended up scoring on my debut. It was a bit surreal considering I was in the stands a year before watching Bairdy (Michael Baird) and Brosquey (Alex Brosque) scoring in the Roar's opening game."

Vidosic would become the first player under the age of 21 to score three goals or more in an A-League season. He would go onto play 16 more games and score five goals for the season.

Dario was making noise and eventually suitors in Europe were knocking on his door impressed by what he was producing on the pitch.

In 2007, Vidosic was snapped up by FC Nurnberg in the German Bundesliga at the ripe old age of 20. The chance to play in one of the biggest leagues in the world was an offer that was too good to refuse for the young boy adopted by the city of Brisbane.

The enormity of the move was realized instantaneously when he arrived amidst the club being involved in a relegation battle.

For Vidosic he hadn't experienced anything like it before. He had just finished up A-League commitments with the Roar who had narrowly missed out on a position in the finals. Now he was surrounded by the desperation of his new club to avoid the dreaded drop from the top flight.

Vidosic said it was an interesting time to move considering he had featured so regularly for the Roar and was now only a bit part player in the set-up due to the circumstances the German club were in.

"I only played five or six games for the first team that season as there was a lot of pressure on the manager not to take risks with younger and inexperienced players like myself.

"In saying that, I played an important part with the reserve team who had earned promotion that season in the reserve leagues. They were happy with my progress and the direction I was heading in."

With FC Nurnberg relegated to Bundeliga II, Vidosic sought opportunities to break into the first team. However this was curtailed by a hamstring injury that ruled him out up until the winter break.

Once he was back on the paddock, Vidosic featured more prominently contributing a handful of goals that saw the Bavarian based club claim promotion back to the Bundesliga.

It coincided with his selection for the Socceroos for the first time and he made his debut in a World Cup qualifier against Japan being substituted on with a few minutes remaining.

Yet on his return to Germany his opportunities were minimal back in the top flight and he was eventually loaned out for stints to fellow German clubs MSV Duisberg and Arminia Bielefeld.

Vidosic says going through those loan spells provided some intriguing times for him especially as a young footballer.

"As it would have my luck I got to Duisberg and they were having a few problems financially. They soon realized they weren't going to make the top six of the Bundesliga so they stopped playing the players who weren't going to be there the next year and blooded some youngsters.

"Then when I moved to Bielefeld a similar situation occurred. I was attracted by the brand of football they had been playing and the coach liked me and wanted me. Yet they were in around 40 million euros of debt so I ended up going unpaid for a month or two which was a situation I had never faced in my professional life before."

Nevertheless whilst his journey to Germany has provided him with a variety of unique experiences, he does look back in hindsight thinking it could have been a tad early to make the switch.

Although in saying this Vidosic says he doesn't ever regret making the move, as it has only been beneficial for him both as a person and as a footballer.

"I think now that I look back on it I probably should have stayed another year in Australia. I liked to try to beat players a lot and I probably needed to develop more physically wise.

"I needed to learn how to put my body in to win balls. I needed to work more on my defense as I was such an attacking player and learn to press from the front. I also needed to learn how to use the space around me better when I was on the ball as there wasn't much at all especially when I first arrived over in Germany.

"In saying that going over only sped up my development and allowed me to grow as a player and as a person. I learnt to get through adversity and that when things got tough how to get through those times. I definitely feel as though I have matured as a person. I think now I am more of a complete footballer."

In 2011, Dario felt the time was right to return back to Australia as he signed on with Adelaide United.

With the move, Vidosic felt it would help him to play more regularly to give him every chance to get back into the Socceroos squad.

After the disappointments of last season with the Reds missing out on the finals, Adelaide are now atop the A-League ladder after eight rounds.

This has coincided with Vidosic's sensational form and he can consider himself unlucky to have missed out on selection in the Socceroos' squad for the friendly with South Korea.

He was eventually rewarded a week later when he was selected for the Socceroos' squad to travel to the East Asian Cup on Friday. Vidosic says having already played 14 times for the national team he now just wants to add to it and prove he belongs in the national set-up on a regular basis.

"I just want to make the most of every minute in training and work hard. I want to make the most of every minute I play and show them what I can do. I want to try to play the best football I can."

Back in the city of churches, Vidosic says the camaraderie amongst the Reds playing group has played a huge part in the success they have begun to build down in Adelaide.

Vidosic says the boys spend some of their spare time away from the training ground with each other and that has only helped in bringing the group together as a stronger unit.

"On a day off, some of us like to go down to a basketball court and shoot some hoops to get some of the lactic acid and build up in the legs out.

"Then we might go to someone's house and play a bit of NBA 2K12. We actually had a tournament recently with most of the boys. I was paired with (Iain) Ramsay and we were favourites! But Bowlesy (Damian Bowles) and (Jake) Barker-Daish won the tournament.

"It's good because we can take the banter from something like that onto the training paddock and it makes it a bit of fun for the boys and we can have a laugh together."

As Dario reflects on his journey to where he is now as a footballer, he looks to his family as being the biggest influences on where he has got to and in particular his father Rado who now coaches the Brisbane Roar.

"Now that I'm back in Australia, I speak to Mum and my sister every few days and speak to dad nearly every day except for game days for obvious reasons.

"My mum and sister will watch the games on TV and come across every now and then or watch when I'm playing in Brisbane.

"My dad though has been my biggest support in terms of my football. He is the one who as a kid drove me to training, took me to games, paid my registration fees when the times were tough. He would take me out into the backyard to kick a ball around and tell me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. For all he has done I can't thank him enough."

Whilst Dario has ambitions to get back to Europe one day to ply his trade again, for now he is happy and settled playing for the Reds and looking to bring the club its first A-League crown.

At the same time and with a handful of games for the Socceroos just over the horizon, Vidosic wants to make sure he can consolidate his place in coach Holger Osieck's top echelon of players for when the World Cup comes around in 2014 where he will look to leave his stamp on Brazil.

Posted by Nicholas Anderson on 27th November, 2012.
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