Stefan Cebara is a 24 year-old winger currently playing with FC ViOn Zlaté Moravce of the Slovak Super Liga. Born in Yugoslavia, Cebara and his family moved to Windsor when he was six where he began playing soccer before joining FK Rad’s youth system. After stints with Zalaegerszegi in Hungary and Slovenian side Celje, Cebara found himself clubless for 18 months but unlike most Canadians who find themselves without a contract Cebara persevered signing with Zlaté Moravce in January 2015 where he has been a game day staple ever since. Cebara also has some international experience as well having earned 5 caps for Canada. We chatted with him about his 18 months away from professional soccer and his return to the game, coming up in Windsor and his future with the national team.
SSPC: What lead you to join ViOn Zlaté Moravce?
SC: My agent came to me with the option and it looked like the right fit for me at the time. A strong physical league where I saw myself playing.
SSPC: Since relocating to to Slovakia you’ve really found your grove and seen more action than you did in Slovenia, how have you enjoyed the increase in playing time?
SC: Playing time is crucial to every players development, the more experience I get week in week out the better player I will become.
SSPC: What lead you to play in Europe rather than Canada?
SC: Growing up in Canada I was always felt I wanted to play in Europe when I was of age. I grew up with a lot of European influence, spent my summers there, fell in love with the culture. I got my first opportunity in Serbia at 18 and I went further from there. The MLS is much more respected now than it was 6 years ago, a lot of players from Europe are now interested in coming to the MLS and playing in Canada and the U.S.
SSPC: Usually (unfortunately) there’s a narrative when it comes to Canadian players departing a club: they part with the club, go unsigned for several months and disappear. You went through the first two but managed to break the mold and sign with a top flight team. What was it like for you during that time between Celje and Zlaté Moravce? Where did you train and what got you through it?
SC: That period of my life was probably toughest career obstacle I went through which shaped me as a player and person after it was all done. I ended my contract in Slovenia knowing I had a few other teams ready to sign me. I took my Time with the decision waiting for the best team to come along. I played 4 games with the national at this time which I though would only attract more attention to me. Briefly after that I injured my hamstring and was out for awhile. When I was ready to train I flew to Belgrade, Serbia to train and get fit. The longer I was out of club the harder it was to get a serious team to sign me. I was training twice a day everyday for 3 months waiting on the call. I didn’t want to play just anywhere, I felt that I had a lot to give and as soon as I would get the opportunity I would prove that. It was definitely an eye opener for me in terms of football and life. One moment you can be on top and one moment you’re on the ground. I am much more appreciative of everything in my life now. That year I missed a lot. It was hard for me to watch football on TV, all my team mates and friends were playing week in week out and I was working day in day out trying to get back to that routine. When I signed for FC Vion it took a lot of weight off my shoulders but I was ready to take on the task and make my mark. I still have a lot to work on and improve, I have all the potential I just have to utilize it. I want to play every game and start every game. That’s my goal. When I do that I can think of the next step forward.
SSPC: When you joined ViOn Zlaté Moravce, they were in a battle to avoid relegation. What was it like entering that situation after such a long difficult stretch without a club and how did it feel to have played a role in the team succeeding?
SC: It was playing my part. I knew it would take a little time to work my way in the team. I missed out majority of the pre-season with an injury so it took a toll in the beginning. After I started training and staying injury free I began to get minutes. There’s been 4 coaches since I’ve been there so it was constant work and proving to the new coach you should be playing .
SSPC: Speaking of proving yourself to your coach, you’ve been out of the national team picture for a little over two years. Are you interested in returning to the program soon or do you want to focus on your club career for the time being?
SC: Of course, I think representing your country is a great honor and If given the call I would be proud to wear the red and white.
SSPC: Growing up in Windsor, did you find you received the training you needed at the time to grow as a player? What improvements do you feel could be made to help grow the game in cities outside of Canada’s metropolitan areas?
SC: I think more regular training. Training everyday has to be there. No matter the weather, there has to be facilities available to the youth to practice and work on their craft. Perfecting the “simple” things such as passing, shooting, crossing, finishing can only be done with practice on a regular basis. 2-3 days a week are not enough to carry your game to the next level. I trained a lot individually and with my dad when I wouldn’t have practice. We would play both in the Canadian and American leagues through out the year. Windsor was good for that. Playing in the Michigan premier league as a kid and traveling all around the US for tournaments. Being so close to the border made that possible.
SSPC: Prior to joining Celje in 2012, you had a bit of contract trouble with Zalaegerszeg during a financial struggle for the club. Would you walk me through what happened then?
SC: I came back from the U20 qualifiers, the club was late on salaries. There were talks that the club may be demoted to the 2nd division. I needed to get out of that situation and focus on a club with stability.
SSPC: Earlier you mentioned how the profile of North American leagues has greatly improved since you went to Europe. Is returning to North America, in the MLS, NASL or the proposed Canadian league, something you would consider doing in the near future?
SC: I would be interested in the MLS one day of course. I don’t know when but one day. It is a rapidly growing league and I catch a lot of games on TV in Europe. I have friends who play in the league and hear nothing but good things.
You can follow Stefan on instagram @Stefanleoo