Daniel Georgevski plying his trade for Melbourne Victory in the A-League. (Photo: Melbourne Victory Football Club; Design by Theo Dimou)

How often do you hear the narrative of talented and gifted footballers not living up to their potential? Mario Balotelli, Robinho, and Ricardo Quaresma are just a handful of examples of careers that should have tasted more success.

Australia-born Macedonian defender and former A-League player Daniel Georgievski wasn’t blessed with natural talent like those names mentioned, but his persistent and admirable willingness to work as hard as anyone else rewarded him with a fulfilling 14-year career.

From winning trophies in Romania, claiming a championship at Melbourne Victory, representing his country 22 times, and playing Champions League football in Europe – Georgievski made the most of his ability.

A return to Australia beckoned in the second half of his career with stints at the Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers, and Melbourne City after his time at the Victory.

With football being the main priority that he dedicated his life toward, it was no surprise that the former Joe Marston Medallist struggled to see a future once he decided to hang up the boots.

Now, the 36-year-old runs a football academy in Sydney where he found a passion for helping the next generation of Australian footballers develop and tap into every ounce of their potential, just as he once did.

In the final part of the Life After Sport series presented by The Inner Sanctum accompanied by careers coach Max Kalis, Georgievski shed light on the rollercoaster of emotions being a professional footballer and stressed the importance of taking the initiative after retirement.

Q: How would you describe your football journey growing up?

A: Coming through the age groups as a young kid I was never the most talented and other players were ahead of me, but I kept working hard and knew that my persistence would pay off.

I started playing for Macedonia while I was in the reserves for Marconi Stallions in 2005 and went over to Macedonia a few times. There was a tournament held in Croatia at the time and an agent reached out which allowed me to play for Dinamo Zagreb where I learned the European way of football for a whole year when I was 18 years old.

After that year I signed my first professional contract for a smaller Croatian club (Medimurje) in the first division where I captained the side in my third season in the last six months.

When I moved to Šibenik (another club in Croatia), I received my first call-up to the Macedonia first team, so I was ahead of other players in terms of my European experience which made me stay in Europe and sign for Romanian side Steaua Bucharest and won the league title two years in a row.

I put all my eggs in one basket to move to Germany at 26, but that fell through and the European season had commenced, so it was the right time to experience a new challenge in Australia where I spent the next seven years.

Q: Since retiring from football, what kind of work are you doing now?

A: I run my own football academy in Sydney and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. When I was in my final two years at the Wanderers, just after Covid hit, I got approached by a small club named Inter Lions who had ambitions to grow with their brand new facilities so it seemed like the right fit to commence my coaching journey.

I went to Melbourne City the last two months of the season and once Covid hit again, I knew my playing days were done especially after my son was just born and I viewed life from a different perspective outside of football. I turned down an offer from an A-League and to this day I have no regrets because I’m happy with the 14-year career I endured.

From there I opened an academy with a good friend of mine and it’s been doing quite well whilst steadily building in the right direction.

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Q: Did you ever think about beginning a football academy during your career and how was that process?

A: No, to be honest. I remember when I came to Australia when the A-League was in its tenth season, so I didn’t follow the league before I arrived.

When I was 26, I remember there were a lot of talks about post-football and I always had set in my mind that football was my number one priority and that I would be playing for another seven or eight years depending on how my body held up, so I thought, ‘I don’t need to focus on my career after football.’

I didn’t want to do things that would overpower and jeopardise my current playing career because I always said to myself that the opportunity only came around once. I lived in the moment and never looked too far ahead, so I was always annoyed when the PFA would organise courses and ask the same question.

When I decided to retire, I had no clue what was in store. I enjoyed training and developing kids with a passion to teach them about what football is all about.

That’s when I started to understand all of the negatives surrounding the development of players in Australia and made me gain a sense of happiness and enjoyment whereas I wouldn’t have had that same feeling if I accepted that contract to play for another year.

During my training sessions, I would always write down what worked and what didn’t work to make sure the same mistakes wouldn’t be made, so I always had a clear vision and I haven’t looked back since.

Q: Have there been any significant challenges since opening up your academy?
A: Not really because I’ve been very fortunate to organise my life the way it is today. I get to spend time with my family, my kids are small and they don’t go to school so I’m with them all day which is what I wanted to do, and then run my academy at night.

I can’t complain because many people are in a position where they are forced to work more hours than ever after the pandemic, so I’m lucky in that sense that I have freedom with my family.

Even though I had no idea what I was going to do after retirement, the transition of academy work was smooth and yes, there are days when running an academy does get tough, but I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to be in the position I’m in and I’m grateful.

Q: What do non-athletes misunderstand the most about the life of a professional athlete?
A: Firstly, stop scrolling through reels and photos on Instagram and Facebook because that’s a lie! Realistically what you see on social media doesn’t sum up the full picture of what athletes go through behind the scenes.

People who think it’s such a glamourous life, well I was in a hotel room four days a week and sometimes playing two games a week. Honestly, there were times when I couldn’t even tell you what country I was playing in or who I was playing against, but that’s a football life and I always wanted to experience that.

When I broke my leg I was training six hours every day just to get back to the level I was previously, so there was never really ‘days off’ or a holiday. Yes, the glamorous life is part of it but once you’re there, it’s very difficult to stay there, so I always kept telling myself to put my head down and work twice as hard.

I wouldn’t change anything because I have a pure love for the game and I wanted to prove people wrong.

Q: Who has helped you transition for life after sport?
A: No one really, because I can get advice from different people but when the moment arrives, I’m the one in that situation and in a position where I have to figure it out for myself.

The biggest issue for footballers after they retire is that life can be completely different going from training at set hours and being in a team environment to all of a sudden living a normal life, so without that schedule, it can be incredibly tough for former players to adjust.

For me, I always had a life outside of football once training finished I’d live my own life and do my own thing, so that transition part was manageable, it was more a case of what am I going to do with my life and having no one organising a schedule for myself to follow.

At the end of the day, I define my own destiny and that’s what everyone needs to do if they want to reach success.

Q: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self looking back?
A: Simply, keep going and keep doing what you’re doing. You always look back in hindsight saying I should’ve done this or I should’ve done that, but I took a punt at 18 when I was an average player and stepped out of my comfort zone to pursue a football career which was always a dream of mine.

You don’t want to have any regrets in life and pondering what may have been if that leap of faith was initiated earlier, so that’s the most important advice I would provide for any aspiring player.

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