Many people believe that the chance of a lifetime is precisely that: a one-off opportunity not to be missed. Jakub Hromada, Slovakia’s captain at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013, begs to differ, however, insisting opportunity can come knocking more than once.
Though injury saw the midfielder miss out on the UEFA U-17 European Championship, which was hosted by his home country in May this year, his team-mates managed to book a berth at UAE 2013 by reaching the semi-finals. And so it is that a fully-fit Hromada finds himself taking part in his country’s first U-17 World Cup as an independent nation.
Speaking to FIFA.com, Hromada was full of praise for his team-mates’ sterling efforts in qualifying for the competition: “I’m delighted that the guys managed to do their jobs so perfectly and gave me the chance to take part in the world's premier football tournament in this category. Playing for Slovakia at the World Cup is amazing, and something I never dreamed would happen when I was younger. Well, we’re living the dream now!”
Chance goes begging
Slovakia’s first test in UAE was the opening-night clash with three-time U-17 World Cup winners Brazil. Coach Ladislav Pecko’s charges quickly saw their dream turn to a nightmare as they went down 6-1, a result Hromada described as “really hard to take.”
It is particularly hard for Hromada, given the chance he let slip 18 minutes into the encounter, when the South Americans were only 1-0 up. His powerful shot from outside the area was on target, but Brazil’s goalkeeper Marcos managed to turn it behind for a corner.
Hromada heaved a sigh as he recalled the moment: “Watching the ball in flight I told myself it was definitely going in. It had to be a goal. But maybe it wasn’t hit hard enough, and the goalkeeper pulled off an amazing save. At the end of the day the score was 6-1, and that’s hard to stomach.”
“It was a tough match,” he added, “because Brazil are the most powerful footballing nation on earth and we’re just a tiny country in Europe. It’s hard to absorb the result. Right now we have two matches to play and we can pull off a surprise. I believe we’re capable of qualifying. We have to start again from scratch.”
A humble leader
Given his obvious leadership qualities, it is no surprise that young Hromada has been given the captain’s armband. His overseas experience was also crucial to the coach’s decision. The starlet believes the last two years have been a turning point in his career, following his move from local side MFK Zemplin Michalovce to Italian giants Juventus.
The move to Turin sees him playing alongside fellow Slovakian Atila Varga, but as Hromada explains, there is nothing normal about it: “Playing for Juventus is something else, another kind of dream, because it’s just not normal for a Slovakian to be playing at such a huge club in Italy. It is my second year there at the moment, and the whole experience has been something completely new for me.”
His career may be on the up and up, but the young man has his feet firmly on the ground. On the subject of captaining his national team at UAE 2013, he is modesty itself: “I’m the captain, sure, but for me that’s not at all important. It doesn’t matter who wears the armband, because we are all one big family, a great group of people who work together.”
Next up for Hromada and his happy family are Honduras, who will be confident after beating the hosts in their opener. Perhaps this time he and his team-mates can seize the chance and notch their country’s first win at UAE 2013.