Former Melbourne City midfielder Nicholas Dib has found a home in the Czech Republic at a club that has an affinity for Australians.
Czech First League outfit FK Mlada Boleslav is a small club in the city of Mlada Boleslav, located 50 kilometres north-east of Prague, and known for its Skoda car factory.
But the 'Bolka' has become a home away from home for Aussie footballers, with five enjoying spells there in the past seven years.
Ex-Western Sydney Wanderers striker Kerum Bulut spent three years at the club, departing in 2013, while Socceroo Eli Babalj left Adelaide United in 2017 to sign there.
Socceroos defender Aleksandar Susnjar spent the 2018-19 season with Mlada Boleslav, while forward Golgol Mebrahtu had two campaigns with the Czech side.
Dib left South Melbourne in 2017 as a teenager to join the 118-year-old club and chance his arm in Europe.
“When I moved there GolGol Mebrahtu was there. I became good mates with him,” the midfielder told The World Game.
“And after a year that I was there, Aleks Susnjar came across as well. So we had three Aussies, which was good, it gives you a sense of home.
“Now, there’s only just me. I don’t know why, but they’ve had a few Aussies. One of the biggest things they’ve said is that the Aussies are always the hardest workers.
“That’s what they’ve said to me in the past, the Aussie boys have always been the hardest workers in the room – pre-season, we’re always mentally ready.
"There was a hunger from the boys who’ve come across who want to play for them. We’re not from there so if you get the opportunity we’ve always loved it.”
Dib arrived in the Czech Republic as a 17-year-old and has worked his way up through Mlada Boleslav’s youth teams into the reserves, who play in the third-division.
“I left halfway through year 12, I just decided to go for it,” Dib said.
“I was at Melbourne City for two and a half years, and then I was at South Melbourne before moving to the Czech Republic. I headed over, I got a trial with the Under-18s, did really well and got a spot.
“I’ve been there for three years and have just kept on going up. I went through the Under-18s, Under-19s and then went into the Under-20s, which is now the reserves.
"I’ve playing with the reserves, which play in the third division, but I’ve been training with the first-team as well.”
A centre midfielder or right back by trade, Dib said the standard of football in the Czech Republic is “quality”.
“The majority of the time it’s quick-paced, it’s hard, not too bad technically but mostly physically hard and fast,” he said.
“Fast ball movement. As you go up to Sparta and Slavia Prague they’re a bit more technical and try to play the ball more.
“Football here is just completely different. What you have to realise is they live the sport – they don’t just train once or three times a week or four times a week, it’s training every day.
“You go to school you train, you train before school and after school and everyone lives close to the club. You’re there everyday. My day, Monday to Friday, is get there by 9am and I won’t leave to 4pm, so I have two sessions everyday.
“It’s just constant every day, which is good. I love it. At the end of the day you’re in a good environment, you’re with the boys. At the start it was difficult with the language barrier.
“I had to grow up really quickly, learn to live by yourself… the mental side of things is difficult too because at the end of the day everyone is fighting for a position. There’s not player trying to play in midfield, there’s five or six, so that was a big difference for me.”
Dib grew up in Melbourne and spent his junior years with Melbourne Knights and Northcote City.
He had two years with Melbourne City’s nation youth league team, and a brief spell in England at the academy of Queens Park Rangers, before eventually venturing to the Czech Republic.
"I played for Melbourne Knights until I was 12, 13,” the 21-year-old said.
“I moved to Northcote for a year, then moved to Melbourne City, then I had six months at QPR. I had to come home as I was still under 18 and there’s certain rules where you can’t stay unless you’ve got parents working there, which makes it difficult.
“I came back, I got the experience under my belt and I knew what I wanted to happen. I went to the Czech Republic as a stepping stone into Europe. I was happy.
“That was the plan from day one, I always wanted to play in Europe.”
Dib believes his skills and understanding of the game have improved significantly through his time at Mlada Boleslav.
“I feel much quicker, faster and I think I’ve learnt to be a bit more physical with my game,” he said.
“Although I’m not too big, I know how to use my body the way I should know. The speed of the game, just thought process, has been the best for me. That’s improved a lot. Just thinking three steps ahead as soon as I get the ball. That was a big thing for me.”
When the Coronavirus hit, football in the Czech Republic was shutdown and Dib returned to Australia.
The midfielder has a contract offer to stay at Mlada Boleslav for next season, but is weighing his options about his future.
“At this moment I have a decision to make,” he said.
“I can go back or also I can negotiate if I want to make a move somewhere else. They offered me something but it’s up to me if I want to go back or move somewhere else.”