Branislav Ivanovic is the latest player to look back on his early times in the world of football, back in his homeland of Serbia...
What age did you start at a club?
Srem were my first club. My father used to play there. It’s a semi-professional club, in the second or third division in Serbia. I played there until I was 19. It was in my home city and I was happy there. I played just for enjoyment, with my friends or neighbours.
People ask me about Remont all the time but I have never played for them - I’ve never even been to the city! It says on Wikipedia I have played 13 games for them – can you delete it from history?!
How did you get to training?
It was a small city so after school I would go to training with my friends, either walking or cycling.
What positions did you play?
At the beginning I was playing as a striker. Then at a more serious age, 15 or 16, I went back and started playing central defender or right-back. My father was also central defender.
Who played with you who went on to make it as a player? Did you play against anybody that went on to be a big player?
A lot of the guys from my generation went on to have football careers in Serbia in my local city and around, but nobody really famous.
Favourite clothes? Any clothes you are embarrassed about now?
Yes, but I think that’s normal when you are a teenager and you think you are cool! Then you look back and you think it’s funny. I always remember when I was growing up at that time in Serbia, everybody tucked whatever they were wearing on top – shirts or jumpers - into their jeans with a big belt. These pictures look funny now!
Any dodgy haircuts?
My friends did but not me! I was not brave enough to do that. When I was in Russia it was longer because the haircuts there were terrible! I would wait four months and then go back to Serbia to have my hair cut. In Serbia I didn’t do anything crazy.
How good were the facilities?
What facilities? There were no facilities, sometimes not even a ball. It’s true, but it was the normal thing. When I was growing up there were not a lot of facilities, so even the small things would help. Now you can see some artificial pitches so it’s a bit better, but it’s difficult especially during winter because of the weather.
Did you win any competitions?
When I was about 10 my generation were national champions of Serbia. As soon as you start playing in Serbia it is competitive and you try to win, so I got a lot of medals growing up.
Looking back, what was the best piece of advice you received?
For me at the time it was about playing and having fun. I didn’t think about anything else. I was a kid who liked playing the game, and I played all the time. Before school, during school, after school! It was a great time.
My Dad didn’t give me a lot of advice, even when I became a professional footballer at the beginning of my career.
Tell us about the moment when you were offered a professional contract?
When I moved from Srem to FK Belgrade I signed my first professional contract. It was a big moment, a big forward step in my career. It was when I realised I could be a professional footballer. The first six months there were the hardest in terms of my adaptation, but in the end everything was fine and I have great memories from my time there as well.