Rok Elsner: from FIFPro Tournament to Champions League
Wednesday 18 July
Rok Elsner and Agil Etemadi both took the same step when out of contract. They joined the training camp of their professional footballers’ association and participated in the FIFPro Tournament.
Elsner and Etemadi talk about their experiences, three days before the eighth FIFPro Tournament kicks off in Rijnsburg, The Netherlands.
Rok Elsner was a member of the squad brought to the 2010 FIFPro Tournament by the Slovenian professional footballers’ association (SPINS). ‘Two years ago I joined the training camp of SPINS. I did not have a contract in Slovenia. I had been a professional footballer for four years. I had played in my home country and I had also gone to Germany for a half year.’
‘I decided to join the training camp, because I wanted to be in good shape and get into a rhythm of training and playing matches’, recalls Elsner, who can play as a central defender or as a defensive midfielder.
‘In Slovenia, the SPINS training camp is quite popular. We all know that if you don’t have a contract, you can go to the SPINS training camp.’
‘The training camp was exactly how I thought it would be: there was a professional coach, the training sessions were good, the training ground was okay, and we had tough opponents in the friendly matches we played. Everything was very well organized, just like with a professional team.’
‘Slovenia is not a big country, everybody knows each other. I had played with six or seven players who were in training camp. They were also my friends in normal life. We were like a family. Yes, we were all looking to achieve the same thing: a new contract. But there was no animosity. Nothing like that.’
‘I had never heard about the FIFPro Tournament before I entered the training camp. At the camp, I was informed about the tournament in Amsterdam, where we would play three games and be watched by many scouts.’
Rok Elsner (red shirt) against Italy at the FIFPro Tournament 2010
Team SPINS just missed out on the final, due to a loss in a penalty shoot-out with France. The Slovenian team played against Denmark, France and Italy and ended fourth. ‘They were good opponents.’ Elsner was impressed by the event: ‘It is very well organized. There were not many spectators, but I saw a lot of people with pen and paper in their hands: scouts and other club representatives.’
Those scouts kept an eye on Elsner. After the FIFPro Tournament, he was contacted by one of them. ‘He arranged a trial for me at Wisla Krakow, one of the better teams in Poland. I went there but in the end they did not take me: they signed somebody else.’
‘Then I went to Norway, to Haugesund, a Norwegian premier league team.’
Four months later, Elsner was once again called by the same scout. ‘This time he told me another Polish club was interested: Slask Wroclaw. They signed me. I am playing there since one and a half year and I am enjoying it. The club is very well organized, the city is okay and last season we became champions.’
Rok Elsner played a key part in Slask Wroclaw’s successful title run. In the final match of the season he scored the winning goal against Wisla Krakow, the previous champions... A great header.
Now, two years after participating in the FIFPro Tournament, Elsner has set his eyes on a different tournament: the Champions League. ‘On Wednesday, we will play at Buducnost Podgorica in the second preliminary round of the Champions League. I expect us to qualify for the next round. Then, we just have to wait and see which team we encounter in the third round.’
Rok Elsner’s story is a special one. Not many participants of the FIFPro Tournament, will end up playing Champions League football. But still, anything is possible, says the 26-year old player from Slovenia.
‘The FIFPro Tournament and the SPINS training camp were very positive experiences for me. It is great that they exists. If you want to be a professional footballer, you need to be in good shape. You have to exercise to keep fit. You need a professional coach and you need professional competition. That is all organized.’
‘I am still very thankful for these opportunities and I was very pleased to participate in the FIFPro Tournament.‘
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