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Milos Trifunovic: We are family

The Trifunovics: Marija, Andrej, Milos with baby Maksim at Ground Floor Cafe. Picture: Marina NeilIT’S a simple snapshot on instagram, but oh so revealing.
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Milos Trifunovic, the Newcastle Jets star striker, is sitting on a Newcastle beach with his wife Marija and their two young sons, Andrej, 4, and Maksim, 10 months. And he’s got a Christmas stocking hat on his noggin.

There are a few more shots of the couple on local beaches in their swimming togs on Milos’ instagram account, in most cases with stern facial expressions. It’s their “blue steel” look, with a new tropical backdrop.

It’s a long way from winter in their Serbian homeland and the Trifunovics are enjoying every minute of the Newcastle lifestyle.

Although both Milos and Marija speak very limited English, they are comfortable in the city, and close friends with a few Jets’ teammates – Marija’s closest friend is the wife of fellow Serbian player Enver Alivodic.

Milos describes coffee here as “super”, and Marija has a preference for sushi, particularly at Honeysuckle. They live in the East End, convenient for the beaches and waterfront they enjoy so much. The trendy couple who enjoy a European fashion sense also like taking a stroll at Charlestown Square.

On Sundays they often visit the Newcastle City Farmers Market, with Marija particularly keen on buying fresh produce because she cooks at home and likes to use fresh ingredients for Maksim’s baby food.

The couple met nine years ago in Serbia, with Milos having to work hard to woo Marija, who comes from the small town of Užice. The relationship blossomed, and the adventure of living the life of a professional soccer player grew bigger.

But the bottom line for them is family.

“He’s a really good family man,” Marija says of her husband. “He helps a lot with the kids.”

His soccer career has taken them far beyond Serbia. Since 2011 Milos has played for Bunyodkor in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (22 goals in 25 games); Liaoning Whowin at Panjin in the Chinese Super League (22 goals in 44 games), and FC Atyrau in Kazakhstan (14 goals in 41 games). He had a short stint at Radnicki Nis in Serbia before landing in Newcastle last spring.

Kazakhstan was a bit on the cold side and the food in China was “very difficult”, Marija says.

“The most important thing is that we are together,” Milos says. “It is hard. It is what I want to do…the main thing is the family.”

The move to Australia came as the result of a strong recommendation from his agent Dragan Jevtic in Australia. He told Milos it was his best opportunity. “He said it could help my career,” Milos says. “By all means it is the most important thing, to further your career. He knew it would be a good move.”

His football friends who were here highly recommended it as well. “It’s one of the best places in the world to live,” they told him. “The football is good. By all means, come.”

And it has met his expectations both on and off the field.

When he first started playing, he thought it was of a lesser quality than expected. “But I realised it was good,” he says. “I’ve been surprised by the quality of the stadiums, level of the players and the league itself.”

The money here was not as good as in China, but that was not the number one consideration.

“It’s not the money that made me come here, it’s the lifestyle. I had the opportunity to come here and I wanted to come.”

While they have little time to explore, they have been to Sydney. Marija says Sydney is a beautiful place, but she doesn’t care for the traffic.

“It’s too busy, it’s a really fast-paced lifestyle there,’ she says.

Milos, who celebrated his 31st birthday on October 15, soon after arriving in Newcastle, has found his groove on the soccer pitch for the Jets. He leads the team with nine goals in 18 games, including some terrific headers and four cool-as-ice penalty shots.

His unofficial nickname of ‘’Iceman’’ fits his game.

He rarely gives up a smile on the field, and modestly performs the sign of the cross, giving thanks to god, when he scores. He’s a classic striker, waiting to pounce, fearless in front of the goal, never far from an opportunity.

“My main objective is to score goals,” he says. “I’m still following the game, but I focus on the keeper – if keeper comes forward, or if keeper is very defensive.”

It’s clear he doesn’t worry about anybody else on the defensive side of the field. When asked if he considers himself the most dangerous player on the pitch, he responds without blinking “I agree with that.”.

Trifunovic’s soccer pedigree is beyond question. His home club, Red Star, in his hometown of Belgrade, is renowned as a top team. He followed the club as a child – Red Star won the UEFA Cup in 1991 – and considers his goal for Red Star against Slovan Bratislava in the third qualifying round of UEFA Europa League in front of a huge home crowd in 2010 as a career highlight.

The toughest games were always against Red Star’s arch rival, FK Partizan, the other pro team in Belgrade.

Serbians are a tough and proud people, and Milos is no exception. When asked about the effect of the civilwar (in the former country of Yugoslavia during the 1990s) on his dream of becoming a footballer, Milos doesn’t hesitate to answer. “The war was going on in Bosnia. I didn’t feel much of the war in Serbia. In Belgrade we did not experience it as a severe as other countries.”

He was in Belgrade in 1999 when the city was bombed by NATO forces, but his family was not injured.

“Life goes on.”

When the A-League season finishes in April, the family will likely head back to Serbia.

“But we will come back,” Marija says. “We like it here.”

As much as he and his family enjoy Newcastle, Milos has not begun discussions about another season with the Jets.

“I’ll base my decision on the end of the season,” he said. “We have eight games left. I’ll base a decision on how the club goes. I haven’t even asked people about the next step. I’ll deal with that when it comes to it.”

(Novocastrians Bec Dujin and Aleksandar Stojkov provided translation for the interview with the Trifunovic family.)

Milos Trifunovic about his young family coming to Australia

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