Footballers are often painted in the media as being disconnected from the everyday reality of fans. Thankfully, Serbia and Manchester United star Nemanja Matic is refreshingly different. The midfielder attended an FBB fundraising dinner organised by Chris Smalling last year, and ever since then he has supported our work.
“When I hear the kids’ stories, some of them have difficult lives,” Matic says. “That stays in my heart, because I know what they’re going through. The charity gives them the chance to find success, to make their lives easier. In my village in Serbia we were poor but I was happy. Every day we would be outside playing football. We had more freedom than kids today.”
With football on hold during the lockdown, joined FBB co-founder Jasper Kain for a wide ranging live interview on the FBB instagram. He is another footballer that has appeared on IG live with FBB, like his former teammate Chris Smalling and legend in the game Abebayo Akinfenwa.
Much like his midfield performances, Matic had plenty of powerful words of advice for FBB’s participants: “Follow your dreams. Never give up … I’ve had a lot of doubters in my career, people who didn’t believe in me. I knew I was good enough, and one day I would prove them wrong, show them they made a mistake. And that’s exactly what I did.” Matic was able to overcome rejections earlier in his career from Red Star and Partizan Belgrade, two of the biggest clubs in Serbia!
Asked to name United’s best player, Matic is quick to talk up the talents of the youth in the united squad: “We have a lot of young players, but they have maybe not reached their top yet, but Marcus Rashford has the ability to be one of the best players in the world in his position. He’s still improving, but he has everything to reach that top level.”
Lastly, Matic reminds all the young people watching about the importance of hard work, and explains how his work ethic has been key to his success: “I wake up early. I never stay up late. Get up, train, eat, sleep. Even on holiday, by the end of the week I need to train. Football is my life; I take it very seriously. I’ve felt like a professional player since I was five years old. I don’t know how to be any different.”
We have recently launched our very own Virtual School to help support young people digitally during the COVID19 crisis. If you’d like more information on this, read this article.
If you feel able to support FBB during these difficult times, please donate here: https://www.footballbeyondborders.org/donate/