Goran and His Love of Football

We all know Goran Ivanisevic as one of the best and most charismatic men ever to have played the game of tennis but if things hadn’t worked out for the Croatian on the courts, he may well have been able to forge a respectable career in the world of football.

That’s certainly the opinion of certain observers who feel that Ivanisevic could have turned professional – maybe not with one of the superpowers of the game such as Barcelona or Real Madrid but he could have perhaps made it with a side in his homeland or in another European league.

For the Love of the Game

Of all the photographs that exist, documenting his career, perhaps the most iconic image is of Ivanisevic in his post match celebrations wearing a Croatian football shirt. He is a passionate man with a great deal of time for all sports but he has said on many occasions that football is a huge phenomenon in his life.

He has ties with Hadjuk Split in his native Croatia but perhaps his choice of overseas football team was a little surprising for many.

Come on the Baggies

Logo of West Bromwich Albion

Logo of West Bromwich Albion

If you’re picking an English football team at random then chances are you would go for one of the glamour clubs such as Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal so why would anyone choose to follow lowly West Brom? Ivanisevic himself has previously said that this was an unlikely scenario.

If someone had told me I’d become a West Brom fan I’d have told them to get stuffed,

he stated.

But a chance encounter while on the Champions Tour changed his mind and has seen him back the West Midlands club and travel to their Hawthorns Ground whenever his restrictive schedule allows. In December 2013, while competing in the Statoil Masters in London, he finished his game with Greg Rusedski and headed up the M6 to see his beloved team tackle Manchester City.

It was David Law, media manager for the Champions Tour and a huge West Brom fan who got Goran hooked. Tapping into to their mutual love of the game, Law kept referring to the Baggies until the point where Ivanisevic was completely hooked and looking out for their results whenever he could.
Ivanisevic still keeps tabs on West Brom and is a great fan of football from around the World but as well as supporting, he is immensely talented as a player.

Second Career?

Goran Ivanisevic’s love of football was also evident when he wore a Croatian shirt in the aftermath of his famous victory at Wimbledon in 2001. But if we look back through his career, we could perhaps see a time when he may even have switched codes and played football to a professional level.

Having achieved one of his major ambitions, that same glorious year of 2001 saw him sign terms with Hadjuk Split, a major force in Croatian football and one of the most successful sides from the former Yugoslavia.

As the man himself explained, there were two distinct goals in his life,

I had two dreams in my life. One was to win Wimbledon. The other was to play once for Hadjuk Split,

said Ivanisevic.

That summer, his wish was set to be granted as the club started talks involving a short term contract and the promise to play at least two minutes of football for his side. This was by no means a gimmick and although there are no reports that Ivanisevic was ever torn between two professional paths, the club’s coach Nenad Gracan confirmed at the time that the tennis star’s ability was ‘close to professional level’ in terms of soccer.

Video footage also shows Goran scoring a goal while wearing the iconic red and white checked shirt of Croatia. The strike came in a friendly game to mark the end of the great Zvonimir Boban’s footballing career.

Who knows how Goran Ivanisevic’s career would have worked out had he devoted it to the football pitches of Europe and not the tennis courts of the world? Most reports indicated that he was never in any doubt as to which path to follow but his love of soccer, both as a fan and a player, is without question.