New Caltex Socceroo defender Milos Degenek won’t have any fear if he has to mark England’s EPL hotshots Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney on Friday night.
Degenek’s story ensures that nothing will faze him should he get on the park at the Stadium of Light (Saturday morning Australian time) when England host the Socceroos in a friendly.
Born in Croatia, the powerful defender’s family moved to Serbia when he was young.
But with that part of the world in turmoil, with some of the dark side of life clearly evident, the Degenek family were able to move onto Australia.
The family did it tough, as the new national team player told www.socceroos.com.au from the team hotel in Newcastle.
“We arrived in Sydney in 2000 with pretty much, and I’m not going to lie, two bags.
“My Mum my Dad my brother and me with two bags of clothes and shoes.
“We had around $400. We got set up in Campsie and after about 20 days Dad found work as a carpenter.
“Mum starting cleaning in a restaurant and I went to school to learn English.
“It wasn’t the easiest of lives but it’s something I’m proud that I did.
“I went onto play for the Joeys and NSWIS, AIS, trained with Sydney FC for a few months then went over to Germany.
“I’m grateful that Australia has given my family opportunities to work, for my brother to finish University and my father to have his carpentry career.
“Australia has given our family a lot of things… and I’m a person who likes to pay people back.
“And that can be in the fighting spirit [in a Socceroo jersey],” he said.
So, Wayne Rooney, Deli Alli and Harry Kane won’t faze Degenek one bit if he’s selected on Friday night.
Degenek spent 11 years in Australia before making the move to Germany where he’s spent five years quietly and calmly building his career in one of the most competitive football cultures in the world.
He's now established at 1860 Munich having played 30 games this season.
Little wonder with his life experience he’s not going to be overawed by the occasion despite the quality of player in England’s attacking third.
“I had a similar question asked of me when I made my debut against Freiburg in the second division,” Degenek said when asked if he would feel intimidated by England’s EPL stars.
“They had a top scorer from the Bundesliga and I was asked if I was scared and I said, ‘why would I be scared? If you’re scared you lose the battle.
“Don’t even go if you have fear. For me it’s not fear. I’m excited. It’s joy and sense of achievement playing against these types of players.
“I’m really never scared of anything. I’ll do my best and if it’s good enough it’s good enough. I’m not cocky or over confident it’s just I believe it’s the will and who wants it more.”
It’s hard not to warm to such a character. And he was greeted in camp by a familiar face.
The Valencia keeper Mat Ryan went to Westfields High with Degenek.
“I played with Maty as did my brother at Blacktown Demons. And the first thing Maty said to me when I saw him in camp was,’ Oh, you grew up! I was really happy to see him and to see what he’s achieved.”
Degenek, who can play in front of the centre of defence as well as a right or left sided stopper, has been called up for his first Socceroo camp (though he’s been in the Joeys and in Olyroo camps).
And with regular Socceroo central defenders Matt Spiranovic and Trent Sainsbury missing from this game, the powerfully built 22-year-old from second tier German club 1860 Munich has a golden chance to show what he can do in this high-profile clash.
And he wants to repay Australia and Ange Postecoglou’s faith in him.
“He [Ange] was the first one to give me a call. And he watched me with the Olyroos too but Ange has a big, big role in this. I’ve only met him once six, seven years ago… I’d like to meet him.
“I hope I can repay him with the trust and belief he’s given me.
“I’m actually speechless but really excited to be here. I’m really thankful and I can pay all this back.
“I feel very proud and privileged to wear the Socceroo jersey and training clothes, and it’s a really nice atmosphere.
“It’s been a life where you don’t know where you’re going to live. Each morning you wake up hoping you have something to eat and drink.
“But now everything touch wood is a lot better, a lot calmer. Life’s a bit better and easier.”