Home sweet home for Geelong soccer star Josip Skoko

Posted: Saturday, February 12th, 2011. Categories: News.

 

Courtesy: Geelong Advertiser

TONIGHT promises to be an emotional homecoming when Josip Skoko ends his stellar playing career in front of a home crowd tonight.

Some say he’s been home for the past year as one of Melbourne Heart’s marquee names this season but tonight will be his real homecoming for it marks the day he can finally spend some time at … well, home.

Family, friends and dedicated Heart fans will farewell the former North Geelong Warrior, alongside fellow Socceroos journeyman John Aloisi, during Melbourne’s season-ender versus Sydney FC tonight.

Skoko’s career has taken him across Europe but he is thankful Heart coach John van t Schip came knocking last December to bring him back to Victoria. “It just happened that way I wanted to come home and (Heart) gave me the opportunity to finish here,” Skoko said.

He has said his “second home” is in Croatia, where he spent four and a half “really tough” years with Hajduk Split in the nineties, earning his footballing stripes as a wide-eyed 19-year-old.

“I was really naive and the war was still going on,” he said. “We had to play a few times in some places that were badly affected by the war the front was only 100km up the road.

“That set me up for anything. After that there wasn’t anything out there that was going to surprise me.”

The move was also difficult for his family, his father Ivan said.

“It was very hard because he was very good at school and I didn’t want to see him leave it,” Ivan recalled.

“But I was very happy (when he found success).”

Highlights of Skoko’s subsequent European career include captaining Belgium side KRC Genkto to a First Division championship in 2002 and playing in the Champions League.

Later he made it to the English Premier League, first with Wigan Athletic and then Stoke City.

“Belgium was one of my favourite places as I was still in the phase of learning my career but the lifestyle and the professionalism of the Premier League was incredible,” he said.

His wife Ivana says she enjoyed those European playing days but a place the Skokos could call home was forever beckoning.

“It was exciting, and in the end you remember the great times, but it could be hard with young children,” Ivan said. “I’ve learned a few new langauages and made a few new friends.

“I’m just looking forward to having him home but it’s not really about me, it’s about them (the children).”

The importance of family is obvious for Skoko, as sons Luka, 8, and Noa, 2, play football in matching Heart kits in the living room while Ivana cradles Lena, 2.

Weather permitting, Luka will arrive at tonight’s game with John Aloisi’s daughter to deliver the game ball before the whistle.

Skoko left the door open to a possible coaching career he refused to rule out the A-League or even Europe but for the near future at least, his involvement will be with his kids at North Geelong where it all began.

“That was where I learned my football with my friends I didn’t think it was going to take me that far.”