New Guangdong Sunray Cave striker Petar Jelic opened his scoring account in the China League One with a header in last weekend’s draw with Qingdao. The 27-year-old has two caps for Bosnia and has previously played in Serbia, Germany, Georgia, Russia as well as Bosnia. His father, Milan Jelic, was president of the Republika Srpska, in addition to being the president of the FA for the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The following is an exclusive translation of an original interview which appeared in the club’s match day program .
When did you start playing football?
I’m an only child and I started playing football when I was five or six and then began to practise everyday when I was seven. In my country all the children are the same, so what I did was nothing special.
What influence did your father have when you were young?
My father didn’t interfere too much in my career so I could do what I wanted. My dad’s political career and my career are different: I’m a footballer with no outside political influences. Anyway, when my dad passed away in 2007 I was still young so my career began after his ended.
Your father is a great man, what do you remember most about him?
The way he could do so many jobs and bear such great pressure. In two days he could fly more than 2000km and visit five different cities. The most important thing I learned from him is never to give up.
What qualities have you inherited from your father?
Many people say we’re basically identical! (laughs) We both refuse to accept defeat and are optimistic people.
In your opinion, what are the similarities and differences between being a footballer and a politician?
Whether you are a footballer or a politician, you must try to be friendly so there aren’t such great differences. However, footballers’ careers end when they are 30-35 years old so in the future I must make a choice about a new career. I think I will have many options when I retire because I’ve already completed a law degree in Sebia and can speak 3 or 4 languages. I haven’t decided what I will do when I retire yet though.
Will you follow your father into politics?
I’ll consider any career but as I said earlier it’s too early to decide now.
Why did you choose to become a footballer?
I chose it because like all the children in my country I always played football when I was young.
Is becoming a footballer considered a good career in your country?
Yes. Football is the most popular sport in the world and if you can play at a high level of competition then the rewards in terms of both salary and social class are good.
Why did you choose to move to Guandong Sunray Cave?
Ou Chuliang (former national team goalkeeper and currently on the backroom staff at Sunray Cave) described the club’s future ambitions to me and I’m confident that I can help the club take the next step forward.
Can you tell us a little about your playing style?
I’m 1.90m tall so of course I’m good in the air. At the same time I’m a threat in the box and can also shoot from distance.
Since you’ve been in China what differences have you found between football here and in Europe?
The biggest difference is in terms of technique. In Germany the tempo is faster and the players are stronger and my team (F.C. Nuremberg) also focused on developing young players.
Who is your favourite player?
I don’t have one now but when I was young it was Ronaldo because I think he was the best player at that time.
What are your hobbies outside of football?
When I’ve got free time I like reading and learning about different cultures. Football is my main concern though and I don’t want to lose focus. I know a little about Chinese culture and geography and since arriving I’ve learnt more about Cantonese culture and read about Hong Kong and Macau too.
You mentioned earlier that you can speak many languages, will you learn Mandarin?
When I was playing in Germany and Russia I had lessons so I can speak four or five languages now. I think Mandarin is the most difficult language in the world to learn but I’ll try and I can say some simple sentences already.
After you arrived here you picked up an injury, have you recovered now?
You’re right, my back was sore but I’ve recovered now and I hope I can work harder to catch up for the training sessions that I missed.
Petar Jelic’s Guangdong Sunray Cave are in action next Saturday afternoon when they take on Xinjiang Taishan Leopard FC at 3.35pm at the Huangpu Sports Centre in the eastern part of Guangzhou.