Australian teenager Jake Angelovski is closing in on a first-team debut in the Slovenian Prva Liga with NK Triglav Kranj.
Only 19, Angelovski joined the Slovenian top-flight club from Victorian NPL side Preston Lions in February.
After seeing out the worst of the coronavirus in the former Yugoslavian state, the goalkeeper is earning his stripes at the Bordo-beli.
In his second spell in Europe, after a season with the Under-19s at Leganes, Angelovski is determined to shine at the Kranj-based outfit.
The young keeper, who looks up to compatriots Mat Ryan and Mark Schwarzer, is out to make his name in the European league.
“The club is really good, they play in the first division, which is a great league with a lot of quality and has a good combination of talented young players and very experienced older players,” Angelovski told The World Game.
“I feel really welcomed and the training is top class with the coaches who were top professionals, who played in Serie A, as well as my goalkeeper coach who played in the Turkish Super Lig.
“Everyday I’m learning something and getting better, which is my main objective. It was a very difficult period of over two months being in lockdown here in Slovenia as the situation was really bad being so close to Italy.
“Everything bar supermarkets and pharmacies were closed and being alone and away from family was tough.
"I managed to keep fit through a lot of cardio, core and home workouts, which also helped me stay really fit and helped me through the tough times of isolation.
“By the time training had resumed I had never felt fitter or happier to play football, which has improved my form massively. The situation now here, football-wise, is back to normal.
“We have resumed the league now without spectators and with some standard coronavirus precautions.”
Angelovski grew up in Melbourne and learned his trade at local clubs Pascoe Vale, Preston, Brunswick City, Sporting Whittlesea and Heidelberg United. In 2018, the shot-stopper left Australia to link up with Leganes.
But, frustrated at a lack of regular football in Spain, he came back to Melbourne last year before returning to Europe for more trials.
“The move came about as last season I spent a year with Leganes’ Under-19s but due to lack of game-time I decided to move and I knew I wanted to return back to Europe,” Angelovski explained.
“So for about four months I spent training in Melbourne with Victory and City to keep my fitness up.
"Then in September I went for a trial in Germany with SV Waldhof Mannheim and whilst on that trial I was presented with the idea of coming over to Slovenia through the agency that organised the trial.
“They told me about the league, the quality and the fact that so many young players play in the league and it is such a big talent pool for Europe.
"I knew it would be a good choice to head over in a fully professional first-team environment as opposed to another Under-19/Under-23 style squad.
“In November I came over to Slovenia for a trial with Triglav Kranj. I impressed in the trial, and was basically happy with everything at the club and decided to sign for the next 18 months.”
Triglav currently sit in eighth spot in the 10-team Prva Liga, just one point above ninth-placed Domzale.
Angelovski’s club are battling to avoid the drop with the ninth-placed finishers set for a relegation playoff.
“There’s a close title fight and a sort of fight for survival with our club Triglav, as well as three other clubs within seven points of second-last in the table,” he said.
“That means they will play qualification games with the second-placed team Gorica of the second league, in which if Gorica win they go up and we go down. But if we win, we stay up, so it will be really tough these last few games.
“One thing about this league is it is so competitive and close. Anyone can beat anyone as Triglav this year have beaten both Maribor and Olimpija, the top teams of the division.
“Slovenia is a beautiful country with great people. I’m enjoying life here and I have integrated really well here as everyone here is so helpful and kind, and the fact that I can understand Croatian has made it really easy to integrate as the language is really similar to Slovenian, which I’m learning at the moment.”
Angelovski is eligible to represent both Australia and North Macedonia through his heritage. The keeper has been called up for North Macedonia’s youth teams before but admits the green and gold is his preference.
For now, his focus is on continuing his development and breaking into Triglav’s first-team.
“I actually had the opportunity to train with the Macedonian Under-17s in 2017, as well as the Under-19s squad in 2018 before their European qualifying tournament in Prague,” Angelovski said.
“However, I was unfortunately not selected in the squad due to my lack of experience at Leganes and the coach opted to choose keepers who play week-in-week-out.
“I would be honoured and proud to represent either national team, however, being born in Australia and growing up in Australia, it would be extra special to represent the Socceroos.
"I grew up dreaming of playing for the Socceroos, like my idols Mark Schwarzer and Maty Ryan.
“At the moment my goal in Slovenia is to continue everyday to improve my skills as a goalkeeper and work towards becoming the number one at the club.
"I am still really young as a goalkeeper, and this all takes time, but I’m waiting for that opportunity and when it comes (I will) take it and perform.”