Already boasting around 20 senior international caps for Slovakia and armed with a 2008/09 Bundesliga winners’ medal from club side Wolfsburg, 23-year-old right-back Peter Pekarik clearly has a bright future ahead. Calm, mature and a key figure for a Slovak team preparing to take part in their first FIFA World Cup™, FIFA.com took a closer look at his story so far.
“He’s a very talented player with a lot of potential. I’m sure he’s going to continue making progress in our league,” was the verdict of Schalke boss Felix Magath, when signing Pekarik for previous club Wolfsburg in the January 2009 transfer window. Peky did not disappoint either, making 16 league appearances as the Wolves strode to a maiden Bundesliga crown.
From Dubnica to the Repre
The youngster’s first steps on the professional ladder came at hometown club MSK Zilina, though it was during a 2004/05 loan move to modest outfit MFK Dubnica that the then 18-year-old made his top-flight debut. The gifted defender looked right at home from the outset, his blend of defensive solidity and attacking nous helping MFK finish the campaign in fourth spot – a club record.
Peky continued to impress upon his return to Zilina, the right-back racking up 111 league appearances for the team in yellow and green between 2005 and 2008 and helping himself to five goals. A Slovak championship winner in 2006/07, his triumph two seasons later with Wolfsburg made him only the second Slovakian player to win the title in a major European league, following in the footsteps of ex-Real Madrid player Peter Dubovsky in 1995.
“It’s hard to put into words what I’m feeling,” said Pekarik in May 2009, in the wake of that Bundesliga success. “The title win with Zilina and this one with Wolfsburg, plus the good results the national team’s been having, will all stay with me forever."
Turning to international level, and the young defender has been a fixture in the Slovakia set-up since winning his first senior cap in December 2006 against the United Arab Emirates. Indeed, he was the most-used player in the Repre’s successful qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010, making nine appearances and amassing 810 on-the-field minutes under coach Vladimir Weiss.
History in the making
Pekarik’s reliable, versatile and dynamic displays were an integral feature in Slovakia finished top of a keenly-contested European Zone Group 3. Things did not go quite so well in his first full season in Germany, however, with Peky barely featuring under Magath’s successor Armin Veh and only breaking back into the side following Veh’s dismissal in January 2010. He will now have to prove himself to yet another coach, after caretaker boss Lorenz-Gunther Kostner was replaced by former England manager Steve McClaren.
Yet a more immediate challenge is the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where Slovakia have been drawn in Group F alongside Paraguay, New Zealand and world champions Italy. “For a small nation like us, qualifying was a sensational achievement,” said the player, before outlining the Repre’s determination to make an impact at the global showpiece. “We’ve got nothing to lose in South Africa and there’s no pressure on our shoulders. Why can’t we go there and cause a bit of stir?”