On Wednesday I made the long journey to Waasland Beveren to talk to Montenegrin attacker Aleksandar Boljevic. A player who has helped his side climb to fifth in the table with attacking flair and a real team effort. He was open, honest and humble after heady heights early in his career as he reflects on a fantastic past and hopefully an even better future now settled in Belgium.
How have you found life in Belgium and do you feel you’ve adjusted to life in your second season at the club?
Its good. The first year was a little bit difficult because I was in Holland for three years and I change everything and the country. It was difficult to find everything. Now it’s nice, especially about football. First year I change teammates and club, but now everything is okay.
Moving from PSV Eindhoven to Beveren, how did you find that mentally regarding expectation level and stature of club?
It was difficult because PSV are a really big club. It was an amazing time. Then I come here and I cannot say we’re a small club, but we are smaller than PSV. Everything is changing because in my first 3 months I look at everything as bigger. I try to change my mind, change everything. The second year started really well for me and the team and now it’s good. Better…much better.
I noticed whilst at FK Zeta you were heavily beaten by PSV. Were those matches almost like trial matches? You must’ve performed well to then be signed by the club who defeated you so heavily
Yeah true. It’s nice to be part of a team like that. I play with Wijnaldum, Memphis Depay, big players. The coaches, Van Nistelrooy, Van Bommel, Cocu. Was amazing. But for me it was one big, nice experience where I can learn from these guys. They taught me a lot. I go there at 17. They all helped me a lot. Now I am here and I have learned so much more, but it’s more easier now that I have come from there (PSV)
Football wise, how was it growing up in Montenegro?
For me everything is different. In Montenegro it’s the most popular sport, but it’s not so good. Coming as a 16/17 year old to PSV was incredible. Was really, really difficult because all I know is running, and then I go Holland and it’s strong passing in the first few months and then it’s like I learn football from the beginning because I think ‘Okay, I’m a good player’, but then I go PSV and I think there’s a difference between a professional player and a good player and then I have to start everything again.
Who did you idolise whilst growing up in Montenegro?
For me, my idol was Vucinic at Roma. Now the best player is Stevan Jovetic. Vucinic was amazing. He was a crazy player. When he wanted to play he’d play and then sometimes he was like ‘I don’t give a fuck!’.
Did you feel you were given much of a chance at PSV Eindhoven?
When I came over I was given a one year contract. Then after that I was given a contract for three years and I thought things were going well for me. In the first half of my first year I was in Jong PSV and it was going really good. I was top goalscorer and then they like me in the first team. I would then do everything with them. I go to training camp with them. I was selected for all the games and I make my debut against Cambuur, few minutes, and I was thinking, okay I was young and in the team and I was thinking ‘that’s it. I’m in the team’ and that was my mistake because it changed my head. I bought a car. I was totally clear in my head. I think they could’ve really given me a chance but then I think maybe I don’t deserve it. I was thinking about everything but not about football. I think it was a really nice experience for me.
Was there enough guidance for you to make you think ‘just focus on the football and then everything will then come?’
I had my family and agent always with me. I was listening but it was going in here and then going there (whilst gesturing to his head and ears). I learned, if anything, too much at PSV but I think I could’ve done more there, but now I was maybe too young.
Did you know much about the Pro League before you came to Belgium?
I really didn’t know, no. Okay I’m a professional player. I know Anderlecht but I never followed it no. It was nothing special. Also whilst I was at PSV I know I had to make the next step but no I never followed the Pro League. That’s why I had a difficult first year because I knew nothing about the League. In Holland it’s more about football, but in Belgium it’s more about physical, that’s why I have a big problem in beginning.
Last season the club finished 14th and were in a tough play off group. How did you feel the season went for you personally?
Its interesting. The humour is different between Holland and Belgium. I had to find out how to be with other players. If I say something here they look at me differently and I say ‘what the fuck is this?’ You know? It’s an interesting question. But now it’s going well. I have to find who I can play with. Also here it’s better now than last year. But you know you have to have some guys who speak French, then some who speak Dutch.
I totally understand as there is more than one language spoken, depending on where in the country you are
That’s why it’s sometimes difficult. At lunch you have a Dutch table, and a French table there and then a rest of the world. This year we’re altogether and it’s much better.
Coming towards the end of last season I felt Cedomir Janevski would be on his way out. How was he with you and as a coach?
Going back, when I first came here it was difficult for the club. But this year it’s much better to be here, much better atmosphere for the club. Last year was all about survival. Cedomir, you know he was a good person. He was a good coach. He also came at a tough time for the club. He was fired at the end but he was good because he spoke some of the same language as me because he is from Macedonia. I didn’t play much under him but in the play off I played much more. It was just important that we stayed in the division. Because of that I feel we’ve grown and become a better team.
Phillipe Clement took his place of course. How has it been playing under him?
Cause he came from Club Brugge, he have bigger goals. Sometimes it’s good but sometimes he expects more from us. Of course at Brugge there are more technical players. It was a little bit difficult in the beginning cause I felt he asked more from us, but for young players, like me and others, it’s good. I feel he is improving this team. The level is much better. For me I’m thankful I can work with him because sometimes in a game I need extra motivation and he is always there to push you. You can sometimes have a bad game, but when you see him, you can at least always try. When he is next to the line you always try for him and the team. That’s why I like him as my coach cause he push me to the maximum.
He seems to have created an exciting, more attacking side. Did he say that was an aim at the start of the season?
He tried to play and bring with him what he had at Brugge. We have quality in this team and we try to play football. I was surprised in a way because we had really good preparation in pre season. It showed we can play against big teams and in the beginning I was really happy and we play good football. People talk about us as a surprise you know. We had this quality in the team before but we needed someone to get it out of us. Now he is here it is perfect.
You have the joint 4th best home form in the league. Did Clement focus on getting points at home when he joined?
When Clement came here he said our aim is to stay in the league. When we start we took a point against Genk, next game we continue, we kept going and then people start to talk about us, so one meeting he said ‘keep going but don’t lose focus. If we lose two games we’re down again.’ We just go game by game, but now we start to talk and think because we’re nearly halfway through and if we stay in the top 6, in the first half of the season, why not the second half? No looking back and just go for it!
I was worried for Beveren when Zinho Gano left because you lost 2 in a row. How vital did you feel he was for the team and how great is Isaac Kiese Thelin and Ryota Morioka?
We start really well with him and then you could see in the mangers face he was angry. We let him (Zinho Gano) go. We played good football. To lose the best striker from the team, you can’t just go out and buy a striker like him. We’re not Manchester United and spend millions trying to replace him. After a few games we tried different combinations with me and a striker, wingers, fake striker. At first I was scared but then we think we go again. But after they find Thelin. At PSV they had De Jong and now I think Thelin is a quality striker. He is perfect. You don’t have to give him a good ball or cross and he puts it in the goal and makes me look good.
On social media, some Anderlecht fans said they don’t want him back…
This guy has scored 8 goals you know. Of course he is on loan and we can’t keep him. I think he is progressing really fast. For sure they’ll take him back after this year. If we lose a striker like him we have to start again and get a new striker.
I was speaking to a Beveren fan on Twitter about Morioka after the Zulte Waregem match and they’re worried they’re going to lose him. To be honest, he is fantastic…
This is true. It’s like this with not so big clubs because you can’t keep these players if a club comes along with a big offer. What are you going to do? You have to let him go. We’ll try and do our best this season and then we’ll see next season what will happen. I don’t know how but I want us to stay as a team next year. But yeah, it’ll be really difficult to keep Morioka.
Lastly, how close do you feel to getting into the national side now that you’re playing regularly at Beveren?
I think if I continue to play like this and sometimes I think a team can make players. With me and the team playing like this I have a chance. Montenegro national team isn’t like Belgium. I feel I could make the qualifiers next campaign. Before we had an older team but now I feel we’ll have a better chance next year with younger players.
After the interview, we shook hands and I had a 2 mile walk to the station! A really enjoyable and honest conversation with a young talent who seems to have learned from his mistakes and really does seem to have Beveren in his heart. With the season going so well for Beveren, I just hope Boljevic kicks on too and both succeed come May!