Two countries, one sport
Nick Dimitrijevic’s passion for football leads to soccer success
Junior forward Nick Dimitrijevic’s passion for soccer and overall positivity fuels the energy for the rest of the American University soccer team. While his play on the field shows his desire and commitment to win games for his team, his personality brings even more value.
“I just love playing soccer, so coming here everyday and doing what I love is like the best dream in the world,” he said.
Dimitrijevic is originally from High Wycombe, a small town in England that’s about 30 miles away from London. It’s no secret that soccer – or football, as they call it – is a big deal in England. Dimitrijevic recalls being introduced to it at a very young age when his older brother began playing.
“I have an older brother who loved football, and ever since I was three or four, I was kicking the ball around with him," Dimitrijevic said. "That’s what got me into it.”
Dimitrijevic was thrown into multiple sports as a child. His father, a native of Serbia, was a judo champion when he was younger, and his mother, a native of Wales, grew up a fan of rugby. This led to Dimitrijevic playing both sports, judo for about 10 years, before figuring out that his true passion, and the sport that he is best at, is soccer.
Dimitrijevic attended John Hampden Grammar School in England, but he played soccer at a higher level in the Allied Counties Youth Football League. He didn’t have any intention of playing soccer in the U.S., but once he was discovered by AU recruiters, he realized that coming to play at AU would be the best decision for him.
His love for soccer and playing at AU has translated into being a great teammate and a source of motivation from the team, head coach Zach Samol said.
“He’s got great energy and the guys can feed off his energy,” said Samol. “I think sometimes he needs to think a little bit more and be smarter with his running, but I think the big thing for him is that he provides a spark and energy that some of the other guys don’t. Not a lot gets to him and he just keeps ticking away. That’s one of his powerful characteristics.”
When asked about Dimi, as his team calls him, Samol stressed the importance of the “positive aura” that Dimitrijevic exerts to those around him. Samol began to laugh as he began speaking about his experience coaching Dimitrijevic.
“To be honest with you, a lot of my funny moments with him is giving him crap about not listening well, but that’s because he’s just jabbering away with someone, so I got to catch him and tell him to pay attention,” Samol said.
American soccer is different than English football, and Dimitrijevic faced a difficult transition when he first started playing at AU.
“The game in America is a lot more physical, and there’s a lot more emphasis on hitting the gym and getting strong,” said Dimitrijevic. “As you can see, we’re playing against some big boys. That’s the difficult part. I’m not the biggest kid, so it’s quite difficult transitioning into that.”
Dimitrijevic’s first season at AU was a big success. He registered a total of seven goals and 25 shots. The beginning of the season was a bit rocky, but he found his time to shine. His big moment, and his favorite moment from his time at AU so far, was when he scored three goals against Navy, giving AU the win.
“I was struggling in the beginning of my freshman year, and the first game I scored in was against Navy and I scored a hat trick and won 3-2 in overtime,” Dimitrijevic said. “That made my day and I got a lot more confident after that.”
This season, Dimitrijevic has scored three goals, which is the greatest amount of goals on the team. In addition, despite AU’s struggles in creating scoring opportunities, Dimitrijevic has shown that he is still in attack mode as he leads the team with 17 shots for the season. With AU’s record (3-10-2), he knows he can improve, but still thinks the team is better than they seem.
“I need to work on my finishing and being composed in front of the goal,” said Dimitrijevic. “I think as a team, this might be one of our best years and we’ve obviously struggled. But as a team, we have played a lot better and have been helping out each other.”
Dimitrijevic’s play as been undoubtedly vital to the team, but his personality and presence in the locker room are important as well. He has had a great experience playing for American and attributes it to the rest of the players on the team.
“We’ve got so many internationals and kids from across America,” said Dimitrijevic. “A lot of times you find cliques in the locker rooms, but not us. I feel like we’re all together and one big family, and that’s what I enjoy the most.”
Senior Fabio Massaro, one of Dimitrijevic’s teammates, said that as his college career comes to an end, Dimitrijevic is “definitely one of the guys I’m going to miss the most.”
“He’s the guy that we all love,” said Massaro. “He’s a very nice guy and is always ready to help anyone on the team. If you need help, that’s the guy you really want to talk to.”
The Eagles finish the regular season on the road against Loyola on Wednesday at 7 p.m.