It was a great honor for us to have the opportunity to talk to Danijel Aleksić, a football player from Turkish Basaksehir.
When he was only 16, he played against Red Star and thus became the youngest debutant in Serbian football.
Danijel was 17 when he left Serbia to develop his career. His path was not easy, he fought for ten years to reach his goal and become a champion for the first time in his career. In the 2019/20 season, Basaksehir became the champion of Turkey for the first time in the history of the club, and Danijel had a great influence with 8 goals and 2 assists.
We were interested in what Danijel has to say to young athletes who are thinking about going to America through a sports scholarship, considering that he left Serbia at a very young age and gave up many things to succeed and fulfill his goals.
We caught Daniel on the way back from the evening training, the first during the preparations for the 2021/2022 season. With an informal conversation at the beginning, we commented on the current unbearable temperature and slowly started with questions.
1. Although we know the path of your career (very turbulent, with many ups and downs and in the end a great title of champion of Turkey), could you briefly guide our readers to the beginning and development of your career so far?
A long story. I have been in professional football for 15 years and almost half my life. I made my first football steps as a kid in Veternik, then Vojvodina, where I had a debut for the first team early.
– Goal to Zvezda, I was at the stadium.
Yes, very quickly. That was the first goal. Everything went very fast. National team, great talent, many stories, and early departure abroad. Maybe even too early, but you can never know which path will be ideal for you. I left when I was only 18, as a child. Which I only realized later when you grow up a little and mature. Going to Italy was not a matter of my personal choice, it suited the club, and that’s how it went. Then I go to Germany and then to Switzerland. Later, I thought, if I had gone straight to a lower league like Switzerland, it might have been different, but even that is not certain. To go abroad that young, you need to be somewhat mature to endure it all. It helped me to mature much faster than some of my peers and in those young years to try something different and get stronger, and it all turned out well in the end. The road was not easy, it took a lot of sacrifices and character-building because football became a business, and I had to enter that business as a young man. Although, it is a long story for such a short conversation.
In the end, things fell into place, I’m healthy, I enjoy football. I have a family; I have children and everything goes well. I had to go through a lot of things to get to this. Whatever you do, you have to go through various phases and persist. I think I persevered, and that is very important.
It’s easy to give up when it’s not going well. A person is always looking for excuses, and whatever happens to you, you can find excuses, but there is nothing to it. With that kind of thinking, you tap into place as others progress. When you start to look at things differently, and when you start from yourself, things change. You have to sacrifice and persevere, often suffering to be better in the end.
2. Now, let's go back to the beginning and school days. I'm interested in how you managed to balance sports and school obligations. You mentioned that you went to Italy very early, at the age of 18. Did they have an understanding of sports activities during school, and how important is that?
Honestly, it’s very hard to reconcile everything. I already had to be absent a lot in the first year of high school because you know training doesn’t choose the time. During the first year, I had to solve some subjects at the class exam, and I already took part-time from the second. In the second year, I am already going to Italy. Realistically, I am not authoritative to comment and advise regarding the school. I dedicated my life to football, and I always knew that I would only be a football player. When you enter the professional world at such a young age, it is very difficult to achieve both.
Professors, of course, need to have understanding. I do not advise anyone to opt exclusively for sports and drop out of school, I would never say that. I had such a path, and in my case, there was no other choice. I even think that the school I finished will never have anything to do with it.
When you train some other sports, you only have, say, evening training, and that’s a different story. I believe it is possible.
3. Have you heard about the opportunity offered by our agency for scholarship studies and sports in America, and what do you think about it? Do you recommend that to young people?
In America, the principles and concepts are different. They go to school and play sports, and then both can be combined. They go from the development leagues to the first league onwards. There, sports and football are only now developing, and a lot of money is being invested, and that is a good opportunity for young players. I advise athletes to try something like that if their abilities allow it. First, they have to think about what they want and dedicate themselves to it to the maximum. If, in addition to sports, they also want to have their profession and study, this program is a great choice for them. The question is what do you want in life.
Would you try yourself in America near the end of your career, and have you thought about it?
I honestly didn’t think about it. I’m here in Europe, and I’m fine here. After all, America is another world, when you go young, it is easier to adapt, and the possibilities are great. However, for now, I will stay in European football.
Do you recommend young boys and girls, who look up to you, to dedicate themselves to education in addition to sports, if the conditions allow it?
I will say again, I do not feel authoritative to advise young people for education, but I think that it is good and that they should dedicate themselves to what they decide on. Of course, it is good to go to school and play sports. This requires a special education system, and in America, for example, it is possible.
4. What else would you say to young football players?
I repeat, they must be aware of what they want and be fully committed to it. If you want to be an athlete, a football player, you have to put your whole self into it and give up many things. Sometimes you have to be aware that if you want to be on top, you have to give up the usual things. It is not possible to always hang out, go for drinks, and do other things. Of course, you can have friends, but you just have to live and breathe football. Analysis and dedication, investing in yourself, is such a sport today, and if you want to be at the top you have to give up many things. It is a job that requires 100% of yourself, your time, and effort. If you approach it that way, you will be more successful. Whether it is sports, business, or any profession, sacrifice is required. The more you invest in yourself, the more it will pay off. Especially when you go abroad, physical fitness there is on an even higher level, and you have to work hard to stand out and be better than others. There is no real recipe other than work and just work. Going to sleep and getting up with that in mind and maximum commitment.
5. Finally, we are interested in how you see your near future. What are your plans? Are you staying in Turkey until further notice, or are you planning to change the league?
We have been here for three years in Turkey and two years in Istanbul. I am here as long as I feel good and as long as I am healthy. It’s my number one work too. It’s nice here, it’s a good city and club and as far as I’m concerned, I could be here for the rest of my career.
Wishing it to stay that way and with a lot of luck, we thanked Danijel for his time and useful advice for young people.