After spending weeks in hospital with a crippling virus, facing the ire of a tyrannical club president and training for 13 weeks with a posterior cruciate tear after being misdiagnosed twice, it’s no surprise that Dario Vidosic leaves training these days with a smile on his face.
Having recently spent two seasons with Swiss middleweights FC Sion, the Australian marquee has returned down under with his fair share of stories to tell.
It speaks volumes about the 28-year-old’s character that he recounts the trials and tribulations of his Swiss rollercoaster ride and to a lesser extent his experiences playing in Germany with such humility, despite being confronted with some truly challenging scenarios that have hindered a good slice of his career.
There’s no trace of remorse or reprisal in his account, only gratitude, which has been informed by the former Brisbane and Adelaide man’s consummate professionalism and diligence.
It’s been a long and fascinating story so far for the Croatian-born Socceroo.
Almost ten years ago, a 19-year-old Vidosic burst onto the Hyundai A-League scene in the 2006/07 season with Queensland Roar.
He wasted no time in announcing himself to the then-infantile competition. Coming off the bench in Roar’s opening round fixture against Perth Glory, the slender, fair-haired forward scored one and made another in a comprehensive 3-0 rout.
Emerging during the golden era of Australia’s national team, the teenager from Osijek, Croatia was a glimpse of the nation’s next batch of young hopefuls. His potential was underlined from the word go. It’s something that the now 28-year-old has always strived to live out.
“I’m quite an ambitious person”, says Vidosic.
Even before striding into the professional realm with the Australian Institute of Sport in 2006, Vidosic had his ambitions firmly set.
After falling in love with the game watching Italia 90 highlights on an old cassette tape, a young Vidosic was struck by dazzling awe of the Italian Roberto Baggio. The pony-tailed playmaker caught his eye again in the 1994 World Cup in USA.
“I’ve lost count of the times I’ve watched that World Cup 1990 tape”, says Vidosic.
“It was my earliest memory, watching Baggio play in 1990, 1994 and then again in 1998. The dream became to play in a World Cup, and pushing to make it a reality, which I was one day able to achieve”.
Vidosic’s ambition and potential as one of Australia’s next big names was underscored after just 17 Hyundai A-League games when Bundesliga’s FC Nurnberg, amongst other potential European suitors, came calling in 2007.
Although he was only 20 at the time, he had outgrown the highest level of domestic Australian football before being afforded the chance to draw breath. According to Vidosic, the move was a no-brainer.
“They were a big club, they had a lot of interest in me and they really wanted me to come over.
“It’s a dream of every young player to play out there. We grow up watching the Bundesliga and Premier League and waking up early in the morning to watch these clubs play in the Champions League as kids.
“I had the best time in the first week there. Once I had arrived, settled in and got comfortable, I knew I had made the right decision”.
The bedding in period at Der Altmeister was made much smoother by a generous smattering of established Australians at the Bavarian club where Joshua Kennedy, Matthew Spiranovic and Michael Beauchamp would all eventually ply their trade together for the 2006/07 season.
“We were almost a family”, Vidosic recalls.
“I had two older brothers in Beauchamp and Josh Kennedy, and Matt who was closer to my age.
“We had a great balance where the two older guys taught us the ropes. They had played professional football and they taught us the lessons they had learnt themselves”.
With Dean Heffernan also due to arrive on loan, Nurnberg’s Australian clique received a mixed reception from some of the more local players. Although he settled in quickly at the one-time German championship winners, this presented a young Vidosic with the first of many European hurdles.
“We were looked at a bit differently because we were together all the time, they cast us out in a way.
“We were viewed as this group of four who had come in to take their positions. We were all competing”.
Vidosic is philosophical about his time with the Bavarian club. He had successfully settled into a foreign country and vastly different footballing culture but had witnessed players attempting to get coaching staff sacked. He had been relegated to the second division in his first season but played a major role in the club’s promotion back to the Bundesliga to following campaign.
“If I could go back again I’m not sure I would have gone to a club like Nurnberg where I had three other Australian players.
“I perhaps would’ve gone to another club that was interested in me at the time so I could have gone through the whole adaption process on my own.
“Sometimes you look back and you think what could have been but that’s the beauty of life, you can’t change anything and you’ve just got to keep looking forward.”
Vidosic’s four-year stint with Nurnberg ended in 2011 after two loan spells to second division outfits MSV Duisburg and Arminia Bielefeld saw first-team opportunities dry up. Adelaide United offered the Australian international a route home where he played 51 matches, scoring 15 goals.
But it wasn’t long before his ambitious side came to the fore once more: Vidosic leaving friends, family and familiarity behind to return to Europe for a second time with FC Sion.
If his Nurnberg experience allowed Vidosic to test the European waters, his time with the Swiss outfit threw him in at the deep end.
Arriving as one of the league’s most highly regarded players, Vidosic quickly rose to the challenge and his impact catapulted Sion up the table in a hugely successful opening quarter to his Swiss journey.
“It was a phenomenal first six months.
“I was very headstrong going over, I was playing well, I had it in my mind that I was going to be successful and nothing was going to stop me.”
However, as Vidosic himself testifies, things can change very quickly in football and through a combination of extraordinary bad fortune and incompetent management, his time with Sion would take several turns for the worse.
After falling sick in pre-season of 2014, he was hospitalized for over a fortnight with a mysterious virus that left him with a facial rash. Raimondo Ponte, the third of seven managers to take charge of the Sion first team during Vidosic’s time, astonishingly accused him of saving himself for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.
“It was unheard of. I was treated as if I didn’t care about the club and was just using it to get into the national team.
“I went purple, they rushed me to hospital. It really took the life out of me and took a while for me to recover from all that.”
Although he made a full recovery, Vidosic would go on to be branded a ‘tourist’ by Sion’s fifth manager, Frederic Chassot.
Following a freak bicycle accident and a double misdiagnosis, he was made to train with a posterior cruciate tear for 13 weeks despite raising concerns with the fitness staff on several occasions. To make matters worse, Vidosic was ostracised from the first team.
“You leave a lot behind when moving abroad and the one thing you want when you go over there is for things to be the way they should be.
“You don’t ask for a set up like Barcelona or Real Madrid but you want it to be professional like we have at the Wanderers.
“You think when you’re going to Europe you expect much better but it doesn’t always work out that way and I can vouch for that”.
Although he stresses that he made the most of his tumultuous period in Switzerland, Vidosic is disappointed with how the move played out. But he acknowledges he’s become better for it. He’s always looking forward and says his best years are ahead of him.
“I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve been through experiences that make you stronger as a person so when things like an illness, a bike, or the president who’s doing all sorts of crazy things like picking the team, it makes you appreciate what I have here now.
“Maybe it was all meant to be that way for me, for me to come here to the Wanderers and to finally get what I feel any footballer deserves which is a good environment around them, a coach and coaching staff that demand the best from you and can teach you every day.
“I’m at a great age right now at 28 so I want to continue to play and be the best I can.”
After two stints in Europe that has seen the Wanderers’ number ten experience a full spectrum of ups and downs, it feels as if the Australian marquee has unfinished business on the continent. It’s a sentiment he shares to an extent but there’s no doubt as to where Vidosic’s heart and mind currently lie.
“I know I’m good enough to play there (Europe), I’ve proved it, and the frustrating thing was that it wasn’t football things that dictated how things went.
“But I’m not thinking about it anymore. I’m not thinking, ‘Ok, I’ll come back here and play good and leave again’, I’ve put all of that out of my mind.
“I’m just enjoying every day. It’s great to be back in Australia, close to my friends and family who I can speak to at normal hours. I’m coming to training and leaving training with a smile on my face.
“It’s a phenomenal set up we have here with great coaches and great people. We feel everyone is together, including the National Youth League and the W-League, all striving with the same success.
“We want to create a little more history.”