15/04/2024

Eugene Galekovic. Picture: A-League.

Eugene Galekovic has achieved plenty in his career, and he ran through the highlights and lowlights with Daniel Amato on Amato's Fifth Quarter.

One simply cannot think of an Adelaide United without one Eugene Galekovic. LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE.

It may have been four years since the club’s leading game record holder left the club to return to Melbourne, but the nine years has never been forgotten.

A club captain, championship winner, FFA Cup winner, goalkeeper of the year on four occasions, two-time club champion and Socceroos representative puts Galekovic at the top of the tree as the greatest Red of all time.

“I always played AFL at school and really enjoyed the game, I still do,” Galekovic said.

“My parents didn’t know a lot about the game and thought it was a bit too rough like a lot of European parents, so I only ever played AFL at school. I thought the next best thing was being a goalkeeper in soccer.”

Not only was Galekovic a somewhat late-comer to the round ball, but he initially didn’t enjoy the position as keeper.

“I never really enjoyed it, I was always to be that player who scores goals,” he said.

“My father would always tell me to run more, and I was a chubby kid back then.

“But I always got thrown back into goals and ended up staying there, now I’m grateful for that. That’s just how life works sometimes.”

The National Soccer League (NSL) was the major domestic league prior to the A-League’s establishment in mid-2005, Galekovic played three seasons in the league before venturing to Portugal for what was his one and only stint overseas.

“It was the main league in Australia and it was a quality league, very competitive,” Galekovic said.

“The big thing about the NSL was there wasn’t many players going overseas, most of them were here in Australia. It just didn’t have the structure in terms of television audience and the commercial side of things just wasn’t there.”

Galekovic said his time in Portugal for Biera Mar where he played two matches was one he looks back on fondly. 

“I really enjoyed it (time in Portugal),” he said.

“At the time it was the break between the NSL and A-League (2004/05), so it was either play in the local league or go to Portugal, so I jumped at the opportunity and loved my time there.

“We didn’t do too well on the football side of things as Biera Mar got relegated, but we had a goalkeeper who was at Newcastle United for ten years and was the number one (starting keeper) so I didn’t get much game time.

“I only played two games of the season, so football wise I was a bit young and frustrated. It was a beautiful city though, I lived close to the beach, people were really nice, I took classes and learned how to speak Portuguese.”

Galekovic is one of the rare footballers who, apart from his brief stint in Portugal, played his entire career in Australia exclusively.

One question I had been dying to ask him why he never ventured overseas. but says he never received significant interest from overseas clubs. 

“I don’t know how much interest there was, sometimes manager say this club or that club may be interested, majority of this came from Japan,” Galekovic said.

“But there was never anything concrete on the table for me to sign. If you talk to any footballer, we all want to play at the highest level possible. If an offer had come to play at a higher level, I was definitely interested but unfortunately nothing came to play other than Portugal.”

This surprised me greatly, because it goes without saying Galekovic’s best football was certainly higher than A-League standard, with no disrespect to our domestic league.

Galekovic played in many finals campaigns, and was part of three Grand Final teams.

2007 was his first taste of Grand Final football, when he was a substitute behind starting keeper Michael Theoklitos in Melbourne Victory’s 6-0 mauling of Adelaide United in front of 55,000 fans at the then-Telstra Dome.

He says unless you take the field, you don’t feel part of the success.

“It’s still a great feeling but on the actual day you played a minimal part of the game, that’s just how it feels,” Galekovic said.

“As a goalkeeper there is basically no chance unless something happens to the starter. Winning another one as the starter in 2016 you remember that feeling and want to make sure those who didn’t play feel part of it.”

Interestingly, when Galekovic knew his time at the Victory was fast approaching the end, an offer at Adelaide United came about, it was only meant to be a temporary injury replacement.

“It was halfway through the 2007/08 season; Victory were looking to bring another player in and were happy to let me go,” he said.

“An opportunity came up at Adelaide United when Daniel Beltrame was injured, it was only meant to be an eight-week contract, but I ended up staying around for the next nine years.”

From this one small opportunity came the Eugene Galekovic that now holds the title as the A-League’s most successful goalkeeper, but says he never received significant interest from overseas clubs again.

From his first game for the Reds until his final game in 2017, Galekovic was undoubtedly Adelaide United’s clear starting keeper by a country mile.

He would go on to play a key role in their famous 2008 Asian Champion’s League campaign, where they came from within one game of upsetting Asian giant Gamba Osaka.

But Galekoic looks back most fondly on the Semi-Final series win against Bunyodkor, who had world-class attacking midfielder Rivaldo, coached by former Brazil National coach Zico.

“You look back now and at the time you want to win it. Our semi-final against Bunyodkor was massive,” Galekovic said.

“We knew if we won that we would not just be in the final but also the FIFA Club World Cup, so that was almost our final.

“Aurelio Vidmar was very strong and built us on being very good defensively.

“We went to the final against Gamba Osaka and they put three goals past us in the first leg and that made the second leg at home very difficult to even win, let alone score four goals.”

Living conditions throughout the tournament were tough, with temperatures in Asia soaring to over 40 degrees on a regular basis, inconsistent pitch standards with thick and uneven grass lengths, foreign foods, and several language barriers, it seems a miracle Adelaide United, one of the poorer clubs at the time, came so close to lifting the trophy.

They reached the final against Gamba Osaka, but after conceding three goals.

“All those stories are true, but we had a good bunch of boys, we were always together and it was like a big family, we all enjoyed it,” Galekovic said.

“All you’re doing is playing games, there isn’t much training involved.

“You’re flying to Asia, playing a Champions League game, lying back to Australia to play an A-League game and then going back again. It didn’t distract us, the harder it got the stronger it made us.”

After the missed opportunities of the 2008 Asian Champions League final and 2009 A-League Grand Final, Galekovic says the 2016 Championship with Adelaide United stands at the top as his proudest achievement.

The Reds’ would make history after starting the 2015/16 A-League season winless after eight rounds to win the Premiership and eventually be crowned champions, defeating the Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 in front of 50,000 parochial South Australians at Adelaide Oval on May 1.

“The mentality (after round eight) was we can still make the finals,” he said.

“I was injured at the time, but we thought once we get some boys back, we could still sneak into the finals and cause a bit of damage, and that’s what happened.

“The second half on that season, we had that feeling we were going to win it and no one was going to stop us, especially playing every final in Adelaide.

“The best memory of the Grand Final was Pablo Sanchez scoring that goal to seal the game, you could relax a bit and enjoy the atmosphere at Adelaide Oval.

“It was an unbelievable time and I really enjoyed it. It was a relief, I had been at the club for so long and we hadn’t won a championship, it would have been unfulfilling to have left and not won a championship in that time, it’s a very hard thing to do.”

Despite his successful domestic career, Galekovic said part of him is disappointed he never represented his club on an international stage.

“It’s pretty special, it gives you goosebumps every time you hear that national anthem,” he said.

“It’s the pinnacle of our game, I’m happy to have been part of two very different campaigns.

“You’ve got to understand your role, I saw myself (in 2010) as number three, but 2014 we had Mat Ryan who after game two in the group stage was a bit under the pump and I thought I may have been a chance in that third game, but Ange ended up giving him that third game as well.

“I always thought I just had to push and train as hard as I could and give myself the best chance possible.”

After moving to Melbourne City ahead of the 2017/18 season, Galekovic spent two seasons at the club before rejecting offers to continue, saying he had exhausted all he could out of professional football.

“It’s sad when you’ve done something for so long and know it’s time (to retire), throughout that season there was still interest from Melbourne City which I kept putting off negotiating because I didn’t really know if I wanted to continue playing,” Galekovic said.

“I think when you’re at that stage where you aren’t sure, it’s time.”

Returning to Adelaide United ahead of the 2020/21 season, Galekovic said he owes a lot to Adelaide United, and believes the club will always hold a special place in his heart.

“I spent more than half my football career at Adelaide United, I won most of my trophies there, I represented my country while I was there too, I live here in Adelaide, and I’m settled. Although I have family in Melbourne, I’m an Adelaide boy now,” he said.

Listen to more from Amato’s Fifth Quarter here.

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