Fury FC CoACh At World Cup Cross­roAds

Fury FC head coach diehard fan of Both ser­bia and portugal

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - DON CAMPBELL

Nikola Popovic has a flag in his of­fice that’s half Ser­bian and half Por­tuguese.

His wardrobe in­cludes au­then­tic na­tional soc­cer team jer­seys from both coun­tries.

The head coach of Ot­tawa Fury FC cer­tainly has World Cup fever, and he’s one of the luck­i­est soc­cer fans in the world given that he has two favourite na­tions to cheer for.

Ser­bia was where Popovic’s par­ents grew up and where he was born and lived un­til age four. Portugal was where he spent his youth and even­tu­ally got into coach­ing.

“Be­lieve me, there is suf­fer­ing in my house when the teams are play­ing,” Popovic said. “I have neph­ews born and raised in Portugal. I re­ceived all my ed­u­ca­tion in foot­ball in Portugal. Then there’s Ser­bian blood in me.

“I have had that flag for a very long time. When I go to com­pe­ti­tions, I bring the flag along. I cheer for both teams. I have many friends still in Ser­bia. Even some play­ers I coached are play­ing. I am very proud they qual­i­fied for the World Cup.”

It stands to rea­son Popovic will be wear­ing his Portugal jersey when that team faces Spain on Fri­day. Two days later, he’ll just don the Ser­bia jersey for its match against Costa Rica. On it will go from there, hope­fully into the Round of 16 or bet­ter.

On Wed­nes­day and Satur­day nights, though, you can bet Popovic will be wear­ing his best Fury FC colours, com­plete with a black shirt, black tie and black pants.

Off a bye week, Popovic’s United Soc­cer League club be­gins a stretch of five matches in a row away from TD Place sta­dium, kicking Wed­nes­day in Cary, N.C., against North Carolina FC. They’ll move on to At­lanta on Thurs­day be­fore play­ing United FC 2 on Satur­day night.

Th­ese are two games from which Fury FC must come home with points. Popovic’s team cur­rently sits 11th in the East­ern Con­fer­ence with four wins and three draws for 15 points.

North Carolina and At­lanta are 14th and 15th, re­spec­tively. In their past four con­tests, North Carolina has just a win and three losses, while At­lanta has a draw and three losses.

“I feel this is a good mo­ment for us,” Popovic said. “This is a big test for us to see if we can move higher.

“Some­times, you al­ways ques­tion whether it’s bet­ter to stop and have a break or keep play­ing. We were play­ing very well. But I think a lit­tle rest can help us at this point. After five or six months, we gave the play­ers two or three days off to get their oxy­gen and their rest, and I think it’s been good for them.”

Nat­u­rally, Fury FC play­ers are also get­ting into the spirit of the World Cup, the sports big­gest spec­ta­cle.

“I think I’ve got about 20 bets go­ing in the locker-room … group winners, game re­sults, ev­ery­thing,” veteran de­fender Colin Falvey said. “It’s ei­ther go­ing to be a very good month (fi­nan­cially) … or a very poor one.”

Popovic is not short on pre­dic­tions. His op­ti­mism for Portugal is high, but ex­pec­ta­tions for Ser­bia are tem­pered.

“Portugal has a chance to win it,” he said. “But Ser­bia can be a big sur­prise there. Ser­bia, with the play­ers they have, is a team that can be very dan­ger­ous.”

Portugal has a chance to win it. But Ser­bia can be a big sur­prise there. Ser­bia … is a team that can be very dan­ger­ous.

FILES

Fury FC head coach Nikola Popovic’s par­ents are from Ser­bia, but he spent his youth in Portugal.

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