Sinisa Ubiparipovic was born in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on August 25, 1983 to father Mirko and mother Vesna. After stops in Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Montreal and Minnesota, Ubiparipovic is again in Canada playing with NASL expansion side Ottawa Fury FC. We recently caught up with him for a quick telephone chat from Ottawa.
RedNation Online (RNO): Sinisa, you’re now back in Canada after some time in the States where most of your career played out. Where do you prefer to live and play?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: That’s very hard to say because I think that my experience in the States – especially with New York – was a great one. Again, the experience with Montreal was also good. I think that they’re different places to live in. New York City is a bigger city with a lot of different cultures and I learned a lot over there. Not just about soccer but about life. Montreal is a bit different – it’s more of a European city and the lifestyles are a bit different. But both cities have their own charm about them. Soccer-wise, I was in New York longer but both of those experiences I’ll cherish the rest of my life.
RNO: Have you worked with Ottawa head coach Marc Dos Santos already?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: When I arrived in Montreal it was right after Marc Dos Santos left. I haven’t worked with him yet at all, to be honest with you. But I’ve heard about his methods of work from friends that actually have worked with him and I like the way he sees soccer and trainings and whatnot. I think that he’ll be a good fit in Ottawa. It’s always good to feel that you’re welcome somewhere and that you’re comfortable with your surroundings and the situation that you’re in. I think that, for now, I’ll have more of an attacking midfield role but I spoke to Marc and I told him that I’m open for pretty much anything that he needs. I can also play box-to-box.
RNO: Have you got to meet some of the players maybe? Ottawa seems to have already put together a good team in a short amount of time with players that have MLS experience such as yourself. Do you think that you can bring some of your experience and gell together with some of the younger guys and make a good product on the field?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: Yeah, I certainly hope so. That is the plan. That was the plan from the beginning even though we’re an expansion team. The coaching staff are trying to get players from different places and different situations but with similar character and background so that the time that we need to gell and get on the same page will be minimal. That way we don’t have to go the entire season trying to figure out who we are and what we’re all about.
RNO: When you played in Montreal, you played with some Italian legends, how much did that mean to you?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: A lot, absolutely. I grew up watching those guys play on TV – guys like Nesta and Di Vaio. Ferrari too when he was playing for Roma. I was pretty young when he played for Roma but I remember watching him play and it was definitely a great experience. They brought a lot of value to the club but also to the players that played with them because there are things that you can learn from them and advice that only they can give out.
RNO: One day when you look back on your career, you can say that you played for a number of years at the highest level of North American soccer. How proud does that make you?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: That makes me feel pretty good. I don’t want to say that I’m a very well-accomplished player because I’m still fighting and I’m still building my career and trying to push it as much as I can. I think that overall, I’m happy with the achievements that I’ve had so far. Could it be better? Yeah, probably, but it could also be way worse so you always have to be happy with the work that you put in.
RNO: While at UIC and Akron, what did you study? Do you plan on going back to it one day or maybe going into coaching?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: At UIC I studied kinesiology and then at Akron I switched to sociology and criminology. That’s what I graduated in but, yes, I completed my degree therefore once I’m done playing, I can get into possibly coaching at a collegiate level to start with or something like that. At least, that’s what I’d like to do. Get my coaching career started as soon as I’m done playing which will probably be in three years. That way I don’t have to put extra pressure on me but for two-three more years and it will be much easier to accomplish rather than me thinking about five to seven years down the road.
RNO: When you were a kid, did you plan on making it to this high of a level? Were you close to having European and/or international experience?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: That was my childhood dream actually to play at the professional level. I grew up playing in an academy back home. When I was very young, I played in the youth ranks of Celik Zenica and then from 1993 to 1999 I played for Modrica Maxima up until the under-15 level. That’s when we moved to the United States. I participated in a few trainings back home with the first team (of Modrica) and certain people in the club believed that I had some special skills that could help me progress to the next level but at that point, nothing is guaranteed unless you also put in the work yourself. Sometimes I think that maybe if I stayed down there, my career would have panned out differently but my parents felt that moving to the United States was also a right move as it gave me and my brother (Slavisa) a better chance to receive an education but also to play. Some sources say that I was on trial for three weeks at Red Star Belgrade in 2011 but that’s not true (laughs). When I was with the New York Red Bulls however, I got a call from the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team where they asked me if I would play if I got called up but that didn’t come to fruition because I lost my place in the team when Rafael Marquez was signed. Before that when I was 16 or 17, I played for the USA Midwest Regional team.
RNO: Can you comment on the difference between young players in the NASL and young players in MLS?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: I feel that there are other NASL players who are potentially MLS-calibre. I think that some of the younger guys in the NASL are definitely the same level as some of the young guys in MLS. There are obviously more young guys in MLS with some different skills and maybe better quality but I don’t think that the difference in the number of those guys is by a lot.
RNO: Do you feel that young soccer players have an easier pathway to the top today as opposed to when you were growing up?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: Yeah absolutely because I feel that academies are a great idea. That way you have a place where you can make sure the young players learn the fundamentals at the right age. That way their progession becomes a lot faster. I think that what needs to happen in order for more players to come out of the academies and to make a bigger impact is the coaching at that level. I’m not sure how good it is at this point because I’m not too involved but I think that in order for them to progress, the coaching at the academies also needs to be pretty good. But yeah, I think it’s easier because once you’re at the academy, your team can watch you easily. You’re there every day and even the clubs from the other MLS teams and academies can watch you and keep track of you since you play against them. As opposed to when you play in college where you have many, many colleges from around the country with the talent scattered all over the place and it makes it a bit harder for the scouts and for people to keep track of all the potential players who could make it to the next level. So I think that the academy is definitely the easiest way to the next level.
RNO: Do you feel that soccer in North America should have promotion and relegation?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: That would be a long discussion. I think that for that to happen, there needs to be at least two-three connected levels of soccer in North America with adequate facilities even if you get demoted. That way, even if you get demoted, you have adequate facilities so you can get back to participating in MLS. There are good things and bad things about a playoff system but I think that North American sports fans are used to a playoff system and it’s something that excites them and whatnot. I think that with the money that owners put up in MLS to gain a franchise – at this point, I can’t see any of them willing to give up a spot in MLS if they get, for example, relegated. I think that for now they’ve done a pretty good job with the system in place and maybe some years in the future, if the NASL or perhaps the USL can develop a league with top-level stadiums and facilities then it might be time for that. There are growing pains by being new in the league as our club is also learning the ways. The coaching staff already coached at this level so they know. As of now however, the work conditions in Ottawa are good. I mean we do live in a certain area of the country where the climate is what it is. We cannot for example be outside and train outside on grass like many of the teams are able to just because of our geographical position. But we do have a pretty good indoor facility where we train that’s over on the Quebec-side. It’s turf. If you ask any soccer player, nobody is going to be extremely happy about being on turf every day but that’s something you can deal with and I think that guys in the club are doing a good job of staying positive in that regard.
RNO: Has Canadian soccer caught up with American soccer or does it still have a ways to go?
Sinisa Ubiparipovic: I’m not too familiar with the ins and outs of Canadian soccer but I know the US national team has progressed a bit more. From what I’ve seen, a lot of Canadian youth players have a good understanding of the game. I feel like they tend to be more of a European quality. Now I don’t know if the development that’s in place is not producing enough players for the first team but I don’t think Canadian soccer is far behind. If I had to choose one at this point, I would have to say that the USA is a few steps ahead. Not by a mile but by a few steps up the ladder. I certainly hope Canada can reach the World Cup one day. I mean, I don’t see why not. Honduras made the World Cup and I don’t see why Canada couldn’t one day become one of those teams in North America that can compete with the likes of the US, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras. To cap off, I’d like to give a shout out to all the readers!