THE 21st century started so well for Fitzroy City Soccer Club.
After languishing in lower divisions in the late ’90s, the club had won its way through to the Victorian Premier League by 2002, after successful seasons in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 of the Victorian State League.
Sadly, it would be the beginning of their downfall. They finished 11th, meaning they were relegated to Division 1. By 2006 they were back in the Division 3 South-East section of the VSL.
In 2012, they’re still there, but president Vic Zecevic is feeling a lot happier than he was a few years ago. “We had a fairly rugged period around 2005-06,” he says. “We had difficulty attracting sponsors and public interest and we were in bad shape.”
He says club legend Luka Erceg is the reason Fitzroy City is still around. “He and his wife are the only reason we’re still here,” he says.
“They basically funded the club out of their own pockets and we’re very, very fortunate to have had such great people affiliated with the club.”
After eight rounds the Serbian-backed club is sitting fourth on the ladder, and though Doveton are well out in front, Zecevic is confident the club can push into the top two to be promoted to Division 2.
“I think we have a good chance on our current performance,” he says. “There’s a long way to go yet and we’ve been competitive. We’ve outplayed a number of sides but we’ve been unlucky on occasion. We need to take our chances.”
When the talk switches to off-field performance, Zecevic is even more confident. While he puts the club’s 2000s struggles down to financial woes, he admits the club’s lack of a strong junior program has hurt.
Currently they have only one team, an under-9s, but Zecevic says that is all about to change.
“We’re endeavouring to expand on the juniors,” he says. “That’s our primary goal,” he says.
“There haven’t been enough facilities for kids in the Yarra area to play soccer and I think we need to show the way. We’re looking to get a program up and running in the next few years from under-8s up to under-16s.”
Zecevic himself has been involved “on and off” for the past 37 years and says the club has a rich history. Among the members are Jim Mills, former Australian goalkeeper who was part of our first World Cup team in 1974, and George Slifkas, who was part of the Olyroos team at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Galvanised by the changes at the club, Zecevic says Fitzroy City will become a power team once again.
“Everything is happening down here at the moment. When the foundation is right, it filters through the place.”