Serbia have proved they are no pushovers and really opened up the group for the 2017 by gaining a 1-1 draw with Belgium in Belgium. The goal scorer that day was Jovana Damnjanovic; a player who is more than used to upsetting the odds in the last 12 months.
Jovana’s football story has a start that is very familiar to many girls of her generation. There were no girls clubs in the area of Belgrade where she grew up and thus had to join a local boys club (she was one of two girls there) where unfortunately she wasn’t an instant success; “In the beginning I was super bad” Jovana said as we chatted about her early football days, “The trainer said to me Jovana you can be the goalkeeper, but after a month or so I got so bored and he let me play out of goal”. As time went on she steadily improved and enjoyed the game more and more and soon Serbia’s most famous club came calling.
Jovana joined the biggest club in Serbia; Red Star Belgrade, and coming from a family of Red Star fans this was a dream come true for Jovana and her Father who has followed Red Star since he was 5 years old. “That was my first dream to play for Red Star, the biggest and best club in Serbia I spent two years there and scores a lot of goals It was definitely one of the happiest times of my life”.
Soon it became apparent that to further her career and go full time she would have to leave Serbia. Jovana joined Wolfsburg; one of the biggest Women’s clubs in Europe; “It was an easy decision to move to Germany, when I was 15/16 it was my dream to play professionally”.
Although she had worked very hard to get the chance to play at Wolfsburg it was a tough time for her at first “I was just 18 and I was living without my parents in a foreign country for the first time and I couldn’t speak German which was the biggest problem but after a few months I figured it out”. Wolfsburg won the Champions league in 2013 and with Jovana in the squad she became the first Serbian to win the title.
After two seasons at Wolfsburg Jovana headed to SC Sand for the 2015 season; after being in and out of the Wolfsburg side for 2 seasons it was a new challenge and Jovana is now very much the star striker of the team and has flourished this season. The club may be one of the smallest in the league but they claimed some big scalps beating the likes of Turbine Potsdam, Wolfsburg (in which Jovana got the winning goal) and the biggest club of them all, Bayern Munich in the cup semi finals. Sadly Sand lost in the cup final 2-1 to Wolfsburg but the memories from the semi final win over Bayern will live long in the memory for all the players and fans of SC Sand.
So far Serbia has had a mixed campaign in qualifying for the European championship. They suffered a disappointing defeat to Bosnia but managed to draw 1-1 in Belgium; a result that opened up the race for qualification. Jovana scored against Belgium that day and remembers the game well; “The final score of 1-1 was amazing for us” She says, “It wasn’t a pretty game and I spent more time inside our half than the other but that was part of our tactics”.
Next up for Serbia is a double header against England so I wanted to get Jovana’s thoughts on the two games; “England is the best team in the group so if I say we will win both games it’s unrealistic but maybe we can draw a game or maybe both”. England are 4th in the world so are massive favourites to win was her assessment. Anybody who watched England struggle in their last two games v Belgium and Bosnia will agree that Serbia do indeed have a chance against England. In Jovana Damnjanovic they will be facing a player whose quality they haven’t come up against yet in this qualifying group.