To have ups and downs in a football career is nothing unusual, but the story of Red Star Belgrade captain and sweeper Goran Bunjevcevic is more reminiscent of a bizarre film script than a true story.

With his father a Croat Serb – one of the Serb minority living in Croatia – and an officer in the former Yugoslav army, Bunjevcevic spent his childhood in the Croat city of Split, then an integral part of Yugoslavia, before joining the highly-respected Hajduk Split club.

Having passed through the youth sections with flying colours, Bunjevcevic was close to signing his first professional contract at the age of 17. But his father’s posting to Zagreb forced a change of plan and Goran moved to another prominent club, Dinamo Zagreb, where he again proved how talented he was.

However, the youngster was soon to be confronted by another footballing dead-end. Civil war broke out in Yugoslavia and the Bunjevcevic family fled to Belgrade to stay with relatives. The strictures of war almost led the youngster to give up on football altogether. His father was taken prisoner, and without much money Goran was forced to get up in the early hours to work as a fruit picker.

However, he could never quite kick his favourite game into touch and joined Belgrade amateur side BUSK.

“I missed football,” Bunjevcevic recalls. “When they saw what I could do, they told me they were a nursery club for First Division Cukaricki Belgrade and that I should sign for them, which I did.

“But in my first match they looked more like a pub team. In the first half I scored five goals and in the second I stopped counting. But although it was clear that my new club had nothing to do with Cukaricki and had played a joke on me, I stayed for nearly six months.”

Having moved to Fourth Division Graficar Belgrade, where he spent three seasons, Bunjevcevic finally got his chance in the top flight with Rad Belgrade,where he excelled not only in his preferred sweeper position, but also in defensive or central midfield.

In 1997, he joined Red Star and has developed into one of their key players and captain.

Bunjevcevic has much going for him.He is rarely injured and has a remarkably good disciplinary record. But what really makes him stand out is his outstanding technique, superb reading of the game and flair for an incisive pass.

Bunjevcevic is not yet a regular for Yugoslavia. But as his story indicates, patience is one of his strong points and time should soon remedy that.

Club Red Star Belgrade
Country Yugoslavia
Born February 17, 1973, in Karlovac, Croatia
Previous clubs Hajduk Split, Dinamo Zagreb, BUSK Belgrade, Graficar Belgrade, Rad Belgrade
International debut December 1998, v Israel
International caps 7 (0 goals)
Honours Yugoslav League 2000; Yugoslav Cup 1999, 2000