Nemanja Covic is a 26 years old Serbian footballer and forward for ‘Minsk’ football club. He said how to play in country where ‘football’ is on an equal footing with ‘religion’, why he doesn’t like Belarusian restaurants and its fashion.
He was a part of Italian ‘Parma’ reserve squad and was dreaming about playing in Serie A but in 2015 he came to Belarus. Nemanja has played for Italian, Serbian, Kazakhstan, and Greek football clubs and today is his third year in Belarus.
– Of those countries where I have played, Belarus looks most like Kazakhstan. In Serbia and Italy people adore football. In small Parma with population 450,000 people even old women know the main players’ names. Football in Belarus and in Italy it’s like day and night. On the Apennines people know who plays next weekend.
Maybe people recognize FC BATE players but they are not interested much in other matches. In Belarus people more actively watch hockey and your President likes that kind of sport. I don’t like it – I even hardly see a puck during the game.
Nemanja Covic thinks that it’s possible to increase Belarusian football popularity with effective marketing help.
– In Italy every club has his own channel – during the day you can watch football broadcasts. Maybe football clubs need to attain the level of ‘Dinamo’? By comparison their football stadiums are much better. ‘Tractor’ stadium is a good example. In my opinion fans pay attention to the sport complex’s comfort before they care about the match.
‘Belarusian state institutions require too much documents’
One of the reasons for the low matches’ attendance Covic called a great difference between football players’ and typical Belarusians’ salaries. I asked him if he is serious.
– Maybe, there is a deal. Even in taxi the driver will ask me about my salary. In Serbia this is very impolite. But, if I say about it I hear reaction that my life is wonderful.
Actually, I see that in Belarus there is almost no middle-class: there are many rich men who have luxurious cars and other people who live modestly. In Serbia young football players cost millions of dollars but in Belarus this amount of money is only possible if to put it all transfers in five years. One of these days, I have read that Italian ‘Fiorentina’ paid EUR 5 million for 18 years old Serbian football player from ‘Partizan’.
Nemanja Covic points out that the Belarusians like Serbians live poorly enough although his countrymen enjoy the moment despite the circumstances
– In our countries people try to get through every day. The average salary in Serbia EUR 350, 120 of which we spend on utility costs. At the same time, in Serbian cafes there are a lot of people at 11 a.m. and at 7 p.m. But in Belarus it’s difficult enough to find someone who would go to the café. Macedonian footballer Darco Micevski plays in club so I have lunch or dinner with him veryt often.
I live on Komsomolskaya Street so very often I go to the ‘Eliana’ café to drink cappuccino. I noticed that there are a lot of Arabs. I don’t see many Belarusians. When I grew a beard people started thinking that I’m a loyal costumer from the Arab company. One day one waitress asked me if I really can eat pork. I don’t like that situation because I don’t share Arab views: men smoke hookah, stare at women as if they have never seen them before.
I have a Belarusian friend who stays far away from football world. He says that to live comfortable in Minsk you have to work at two jobs. Perhaps, it’s a main reason the Belarusians don’t go to the cafes. In my opinion, to feel free and comfortable in Minsk you have to earn about $1 thousand per month.
Nemanja got used to Italian and Serbian footballers after trainings spend time in cafes, talk with friends, relax and don’t care about anything until 8 p.m.
– But Belarusian sportsmen have to hurry off somewhere. I can’t imagine what they do accept football. In Minsk my life is pretty boring: I work, come home, lay in my bed and watch films.
I have a lot of problems when make documents in state institutions. To assure official paper you have to go to several differnet places and without one stamp it’s impossible to get another one. In Serbia we don’t have this type of bureaucracy. In our country people feel free. The Belarusians are afraid of fines, and follow the rules, but the Serbians got used to pay for 2-3 violations per month and don’t care at all.
‘Compare pizza in real Italian restaurant and so-called ‘Italian’ pizza in Minsk’
Nemanja points out that Belarusian night clubs and restaurants are too expensive in comparison with similar places.
– The prices in Belarus are higher than in Serbia especially in night clubs. Last year the prices were lower but nowadays they are like in Moscow. Italian and Serbian people like tasty food – there are a lot of bars with really cool cuisine. Compare pizza in real Italian restaurant and so-called ‘Italian’ pizza in Minsk. My wife often comes in Minsk and she says that in Belarus the dish with the same name is very different the ‘Cesar’ salad is usually a huge portion for a robust dinner. But here you receive just a small plate and guests want to order more and more.
There are a lot of differences in fashion. The Italians and Serbians like looking stylish and beautiful but in Belarus people don’t know how to look fashionable. If I see well dressed people I understand that they are sportsmen or just a rich men. Sometimes I can’t find the right words to describe how the Belarusians look – in Serbia it’s difficult to find such examples.
Young Belarusians look like old women in Serbia. You won’t find here girls who wear high heels and with heavy make-up. I think this is because you look at Russia not at Europe. In Minsk there is no Zara. A lot of Europeans buy clothes there because the clothes are for EUR 20 from Zara look like for EUR 1,000 from other shops. In Minsk, I go to ‘Zamok’ and can’t even find a T-shirt which does not costs 30-40 % higher than in Europe.
Nemanja Covic spent his first season in Soligorsk with football club ‘Shakhter’. There he saw a huge difference between life in the capital and small town. – I was not ready for that: Soligorsk is a small town with only two good places to go to: ‘Amsterdam’ in ‘Korona’ and sport-café ‘Khet-trik’. I felt like I lived there not for 1 year but 3 for . While living in Kazakhstan I understood that local authority invests all money in capital and other small cities suffer from that. In Serbian towns with population about 120,000 people there are a lot of interesting places for rest. After Soligorsk I adored Minsk and its diversity. But after 2 years of living here I feel really bored.
I found out that in European cities you understand where the center is. This tends to be the old part, where there are a lot of cafes, sops, and people. But, Minsk is such a big city that I still don’t understand where the centre is.
‘All week Minsk people are busy at work but on Friday they go to the bar and just got drunk’
Nemanja Covic speaks Russian fluently. He tries to learn the country’s language where he plays. But in Kazakhstan and Greece he didn’t do this because in Kazakhstan there were a lot of Balkans and in Greece he only played played three matches and then returned to Belarus.
– I learned Italian in approximately 6 months in Parma as football clubs want you started speaking Italian as soon as possible to communicate with trainer (In Italy I’ve attended courses). And Russian I learned thanks to my everyday communication. For Serbians it’s an easy language to learn as about 50 % of words are similar. By the way, when I speak Serbian in Minsk, people confused it with Polish.
Aaccording to Nemanja Belarusians are not easy-going people, they often feel stressed.
– People are tired of rat race: all week they are busy at work but on Friday they go to the bar and just get drunk. I have a feeling that local people live here from weekend to weekend. Frankly speaking, I was surprised at how much people drink here. I can’t even imagine girls in Serbia would drink vodka or beer in the middle of the working day. Women drinking beer it’s crazy. Our girls can drink wine or vodka with juice in the evening but not at lunch because it’s difficult to imagine how you will look during the day.
Nemanja is 26 years old but he is violently opposed to the social networking. He updates his page on Facebook no more than twice a year and regrets that young people are obsessed with beautiful virtual image on Instagram with which they try to correct their style of life.
– I hate that virtual reality. On Instagram people always look beautiful and rich. They eat in luxurious restaurants and have workout but in real life… I notice that young footballers try to look like top football clubs’ stars: as soon as one famous player takes a post – the Belarusian youth immediately try to emulate him.
Frankly speaking, each year young generation of football players show less respect to their senior partners (I saw this not only in Belarus). I remember that for me older players were like someone unusual and I respected them very much. If we were lucky enough to join the first team at an early age we would treasure that opportunity, work lots and listen to older players’ advice. But today young players have a ready tongue. I even tried to talk to them but I understood then that it’s uselessly. Last season I was very nervous but now I decided to not worry about it.