My First Club - Eugene Galekovic

Eugene Galekovic tells us about his first professional club - Eastern Pride.

Eugene Galekovic - Eastern Pride (1999-2000) Games: 13

While Eastern Pride are long gone from Australia's domestic competition, the remnants of the country Victorian club remain.

Eugene Galekovic recently followed in the footsteps of Archie Thompson and Scott McDonald as players who made their debut at the La Trobe Valley club and went on to represent the Socceroos.

Pride offered Galekovic a lifeline 10 years ago, when the keeper was thwarted the chance to line up against Manchester United.

He was being pursued by Melbourne Knights and South Melbourne at the time, but chose the Knights - the team he followed as a child. A loyal decision it appeared.

A brave one too when one considers what was on offer at South Melbourne - a contract and a return flight to Brazil for the 1999 Club World Championships, where Souths went on to play against Man United (lost 2-0 thanks to a pair of Quentin Fortune goals) and Vasco de Gama.

Months later he realised a contract was not forthcoming, so he packed his bags and joined the Falcons.

“I chose the Knights which was a mistake, I said no to Ange Postecoglou [then South Melbourne coach],-- recalled Galekovic, who recently won his second cap for the Socceroos.

“I really wanted to play for the Knights, but there were a few issues with a transfer fee.

“But in the end I enjoyed it at Pride. It was my first fill time contract, I was 18 and I got an opportunity to play 10-12 games.--


Eastern Pride struggled to challenge the NSL-s top dogs but their production line, which included Thompson, McDonald and John Hutchinson, proved fruitful.

While grateful for the opportunity, one thing he does not miss the daily three-hour round trip.

“About four or five of us used to meet at Fountain Gate McDonald-s and leave our cars there and take turns driving,-- he said.

“There was Naum Sekulovski [now with Perth Glory], Brian McNicholl, Bojo Jevdjevic and a few youth boys.

“Surprisingly we never got any parking tickets.

“The trip took just over an hour.”


Galekovic-s debut, against Carlton at Epping Stadium, was memorable for several reasons.

“It was the first ever game at Epping, and the goals weren-t fit for NSL standard - it had something to do with the pegs and the game got delayed for over an hour,-- he said.

“I was obviously already nervous, but this made me even more nervous.

“In the end we lost 3-1. Stabber [Andrew Marth], John Markovski and Archie [Thompson] I think scored the goals.--

Marth, who made his name with Melbourne Knights, was one of the league-s most uncompromising midfielders. He never shirked a challenge, and if you infuriated him, you could rest assured that he would square up with you.

“There were a couple of long balls and, being 18, I remember Stabber going through me once and Markovski went through me once too - they were probably the two biggest players in the NSL, around the 100kg mark,-- Galekovic said.

“It was very intimidating.--


Eastern Pride [previously known as Morwell Falcons, then Gippsland Falcons] epitomised the struggles NSL clubs faced.

And after more than a decade in Australia-s top flight, they were forced to fold.

The writing was on the wall at the tail-end of the 1999-2000 season - the same year Carlton folded.

“Players went on strike when we were supposed to play Canberra,-- Galekovic recalled.

“The committee were thinking we would play, but all the players stuck together and they sent the youth team.--