Twenty minutes out of Croatia’s capital, nestled upon a hill called Sestine, sits a cafe called Non Plus Ultra, or “No Higher Point.”
It’s a busy establishment. The smell of coffee fills the air as businessmen, politicians and mother’s groups sit rugged up, chatting inside, underneath the heaters or braving it in the frosty conditions.
Behind the counter, a barista has a familiar look. Former Premier League star and Australian captain Mark Viduka spent his whole career in the spotlight, front and centre. Now, he seems worlds away. As his wife, Ivana, waits tables, Mark goes at a slower pace, which suits him down to the ground.cheap nfl nike jersey
“It’s great to do something different,” Viduka tells ESPN in an exclusive interview. “You make a bad coffee, you throw it in the bin. I try and make the best coffee as I can, though. I think I’ve become pretty good at it.”
The man many Australians affectionately know as the V-Bomber now calls Croatia home, and the cafe is his focus. It’s a busy life, but surely there isn’t as much pressure to pour a good latte as there is to score a winner for the Socceroos?
“Well, actually, you’d be surprised. Lots of people take their coffee seriously these days!” he says with a laugh.
Viduka is somewhat of an enigma to football fans. Perhaps the most talented Australian striker in history, Viduka stepped away from the game as a 33-year-old without so much as a goodbye. Relegation from the Premier League with Newcastle United in 2009 was the closing chapter of his career.china nike nfl jerseys cheap
More than a decade on, the former Socceroo seems genuinely interested in what is happening in the country he once called home, but his prickly relationship with some journalists in the past suggests that he is not one who seeks out the limelight. The word “reclusive” is often associated with the big man.
born in Melbourne to a Ukrainian-Croat mother and a Croatian father, it didn’t take long before football became his sporting epicentre.
Melbourne Croatia — now the Melbourne Knights — are the only Australian team Viduka ever represented. He joined the club at age 6.
“My only goal in life was to play for them one day, if that was possible. Play for Melbourne Croatia,” he says. “My dad took me to a game when I was about 3, and from there I was just crazy about it. That was the club to me which meant the most.”
Given Viduka’s pride in his heritage, the club founded by immigrants symbolised much more than football to him. It was also a window to the rest of the world.
“The club was a symbol of the struggle of free Croatia — free from communism, free from Yugoslavia — and that, for me, meant everything,” he says. “It was a torch to the rest of the world to say: ‘Look, there’s a place in Europe called Croatia. It’s not called Yugoslavia, and one day we’d like to be a free country.'”