Ruben Zadkovich says football is a dangerous game as much as it is a beautiful one and that he will continue with the physical approach that resulted in the Newcastle Jets midfielder being criticised after last Sunday’s game against Central Coast Mariners.
Zadkovich did not feel he had to defend himself in the wake of that match but he said he was happy to explain his approach to playing in a bid to enable people to better understand him.
“All the football codes are dangerous. People can get injuries and it’s accepted as being part of the game.
“I love the beautiful side of football – it sets our code apart from the others – but on the other hand it’s a hard game and it’s a physical game. Players are putting in 100 per cent, and I’m no different. I just try to help my team win the match.”
Many onlookers felt Zadkovich should have been red carded, instead of getting just a yellow, for a flying tackle on Mariners defender Josh Rose in last Sunday’s match, and that he survived only because the game was barely a minute old.
Zadkovich concedes it wasn’t a great look but pointed out that it was dealt with by referee Ben Williams on the field.
“To be honest, I don’t take too much notice of what random people have to say about the matter,” Zadkovich said.
“I take notice of what the people who matter say and that’s the coaching staff and the people I play with.
“They know I give 100 per cent for the shirt. I’m playing for Newcastle and that’s all I’m worried about. I play the game the way it’s supposed to be played – 100 per cent. That’s what I do, and that’s what I’ve admired in other players.
“Maybe, at times, it can be borderline dangerous, and I was sanctioned for that tackle. There is a referee out there, and they deal with things as they see fit. Last Sunday it was a derby game, and it was a physical match.
“These things happen on football pitches and they are dealt with by the people in charge. It was a local derby, and we wanted to win in front of our home fans. There are a lot more derbies in the league now, because of the newer teams that have been brought in, and that’s a great thing.
“It has lifted the intensity and appealed to the competitive streak of the players.”
Zadkovich drew attention to himself with a couple of other crunching tackles in the match but used the aftermath of one of those to support his point.
“I never meant any harm, but one of my tackles was on Mile Sterjovski and he’s one of the best friends I have in football,” Zadkovich said.
“He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met in football and after the heat of the moment we embraced. That’s how it should be.
“The game is about everyone giving their best and being friends at the end of the match.”
The shaven-headed Zadkovich has developed a cult following among Jets supporters, some of whom wear flesh-coloured, plastic head caps to games. He was seen warmly embracing a section of them over the fence after the win over the Mariners, and even taking a gulp of one’s beer.
“It’s all light-hearted and a bit of fun,” Zadkovich said.
“We were just celebrating the win. They are a group of fans who used to support Nik Topor-Stanley when he was at the club – ‘Topor’s Troopers’ - and this year they’ve chosen to follow me.
“The players and the fans, we’re all football lovers at the end of the day, we’re all there for the same reason. It’s a privilege we have, playing football at this level, and that gives you that cutting edge.
“It makes you want to perform. When you win, you want to enjoy it, and moments like that are fun. The fans are a part of it. They are great people, the Newcastle fans, and I thoroughly enjoy spending time with them.
“Great crowd support is like having an extra man on the field, and we all go to the fans after the game, whether we win or lose. It’s a team thing. We look them in the eye and thank them for supporting us.”
Coming off two straight wins, that crowd support is bound to grow even further when the Jets are at home to glamour club Melbourne Victory on Friday night.
Watford or Crystal Palace can still expect to receive £120 million ($204 million) if they are relegated from the English Premier League after just one year of top-flight football.