Till I Collapse

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Its the beginning of March 2016 and here I was, sitting in the office of John Bico, signing a new contract with White Star Brussels. The team was playing in the 2nd highest League of Belgium and was currently on 2nd position, 9 points behind the leader Royal Antwerp and there were only 8 more games to play this season. Obviously I knew that it would be very difficult, but still the main goal was to become Champion and promote to the Jupiler Pro League. I was 24 years at that moment and lived already in 6 different country’s because of football. It was never my intention to move so quickly from county to country; usually I always signed long term contracts and planed to settle, but life always turned against my plans so far. Belgium was a new beginning with new people, a new language, a new culture and I had a very good feeling about the coming period of my life.

The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings.

The football business is quite a tough world. The are many components which are important and crucial for the career of a professional football player. One of them is: You need the trust and support of your Coaches. Luckily this wasn’t an issue for me at White Star Brussels. My Coach and Manager at that time was John Bico. I know that many people criticize him a lot and are not a fan of his actions, especially the media. But he and Aurelien Joachim where the men who opened the door for me in Belgium Football. They were there for me, when I was at the bottom and needed someone to help me up again. John Bico believed in me and gave me a chance to show and prove myself. Sometimes this is all you need in football to be successful. I will always be grateful to him and to me he will always be a man of respect.

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Life’s most urgent questions is: What are you doing for others?”

So I played all remaining games of the season and we won every game. Furthermore the team on the 1st position (Royal Antwerp) kept losing games, so the gap between us became smaller and smaller. Then I realized that White Star had some financial problems as my first salary was paid with a delay of about 5 weeks. But anyway, we kept winning and Royal Antwerp kept loosing. So by the middle of April 2016 we were just 4 points behind Royal Antwerp with 2 more games to play. The interesting part was that the whole team didn’t received their salary’s and bonuses for the past 2 months, but the spirit on and off the field was still just unbelievable. I was amazed by this, because usually if a player doesn’t get paid he looses his spirit mentally and physically, so he cant perform on his maximum level. But our spirit was stronger than ever and the reason for this was John Bico. He was my 16th professional head Coach ( which is quite unbelievable for a player who is 24 years old) but I have never seen someone who can motivate you as much as he can. Players entered his office angry, frustrated or furious at him cause of the late payments or other things, but each of them left the office as motivated and inspired as ever. That is one of Johns talents I guess. And this was one reason why we became Champions of the Proximus League in 2016. Royal Antwerp got only 1 Point from the last 2 games and we won both games. I was over the moon. 3 months ago I came to Belgium and now I became Champion and was going to promote to the highest league in Belgium football. After all the ups and downs in my career I finally came much closer to my biggest dreams and goals. The coming season we would play against top teams like Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Gent,Genk… That’s what I worked for all my life and it felt amazing. We celebrated for about 1 week, went from night club to night club and just enjoyed this moments to the fullest.

Never forget to celebrate your success. Success will fade, but the memories connected to it will stay forever.

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After the celebration and receiving of the Champions Trophy, I booked a ticket to Berlin for my summer holidays. Furthermore I also booked a return ticket, cause the pre-season for the Jupiler Pro League would start in 3 weeks time. I had 2 more days before my flight to Berlin and I was enjoying every minute. We just promoted to the highest League of Belgium and I was sure I will have an amazing summer holiday because of that. I booked trips to Barcelona for 1 week, after to Moscow for a couple of days. I just loved the feeling of accomplishing my goals and not worrying about the future, cause everything seems to be perfect. But 1 day before my flight to Berlin I suddenly I received a message from John Bico in the WhatsApp group of White Star. He was saying something about the news and that we shouldn’t believe what they are saying about the club. Furthermore he said that the club will go to court in 7 days and will win the case for sure. I didn’t knew what he was talking about, so I went online and checked out the recent football news. I couldn’t believe what I saw: White Star didn’t received the Professional licence and is not allowed to promote to the Jupiler Pro League. There would be a final court meeting in 7 days where the future of the club would be decided. I was shocked and thought: “OH No, not again.” The exact same thing happened to me about 1 year ago at CSKA Sofia, when the club also didn’t received the Professional License. And that was a nightmare.

So I decided to cancel my flight to Berlin and stay in Brussels for the coming 7 days. I wanted to wait for the decision of the court, because that will also decide my future. The 7 days passed very slowly and it was the day of the final court meeting. Nervously I was following the news. Finally the decision was made: White Star didn’t receive the Professional License and has to relegate to amateur Level. From Jupiler Pro League to the 3rd League. I was shocked. How could this happen again? I couldn’t believe it. I was thinking: “Why always me”? I was 24 years old, I played in 5 professional teams and 4 of them went bankrupt. That was just unbelievable and words cant describe how I felt.

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Sometimes all you can do is lie in bed and hope to fall asleep before you fall apart.

If you are reading my blog articles you will realize that I had a lot of low points in my life, but I always found a reason to keep fighting; to keep my head up, learn from the past and continue to work hard and chase my dreams. But this time it was different. I was unemployed again, lost all my spirit, all motivation and thought that this time I finally hit rock bottom. I cancelled all my holiday trips and just flew to Berlin to visit my parents. The first couple of days I didn’t even left the house and had no contact with anyone. I felt like being stuck in a hole and I had no desire to lift myself up from there. After about 5 days I started to think about my life and everything connected to it. I believe that everything has a purpose, even the worst things in life; so I was trying to figure out why I am so unlucky in my career and life so far. There were days where I just sat in my car, driving into a forest, screaming and crying out: FUUUCK, wtf is the purpose of this… I train so hard, hours and hours for the thing I love the most. But life keeps punching me in the face over and over again.

I started to read a book of Irvin d. Yalom and my eyes fell upon a sentence where he asked himself:”Do you live life in such a way that you are willing to repeat the same life eternally”? Suddenly it clicked in my head. YES. Yes, that’s exactly what I want. I will live just the way I had lived the previous year-and the year before that and before that. Because I am chasing a dream. A dream that I chase since I am 7 years old. A dream that pushed me out of every bad situation in life and gave me hope. A dream that gave me happiness and made me the person I am now…a guy who is willing to fight, to work hard, to learn and above all: to stay loyal to himself.

Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuild my life.

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I am writing this blog to motivate young people, athlete or not, to fight for their dreams, to encourage themselves to not give up, even when everything seems fucked up; to never stop working and NEVER lose the focus to your dreams. I know its very hard at times but you have to keep going and eventually you will realize that all the shit things from the past will have a positive effect on you. Like it did with me. I will never quit on my dreams. I will never stop working and believing Nothing can hold me back, eventually I will get there. I will keep going TILL I COLLAPSE.

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Time changes, Friends stay

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It was the summer of 2015 and again I was looking for a new club. I was only 23 years old and my carrier couldn’t have turned out any worse. I played in 3 professional clubs so far. My 1st club Heart of Midlothian went insolvent. My 2nd club FK Sevastopol was liquidated and doesn’t exist anymore after my first year at the club; even though I had a 3 year contract. My 3rd club CSKA Sofia was bankrupt and had to go down to the 4th league after my first year at the club; and again I had a 3 year contract. Furthermore I had already 14 professional Coaches/Managers changes and I was owed more than 80 000 Euros from my former clubs. To be honest I think there is not one single professional football player who had such an unlucky carrier with only 23 years. I am sure many players would have given up already and would look for another job with steady income and without this kind of stress. But I had a dream to chase and there was really nothing what could have brought me down. I wanted to play in the highest level of professional football; playing and competing against the best clubs and players in the world…the Champions League.

If your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough. 

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So when I got a contract offer from 1. FC Union Berlin I was over the moon. First of all Berlin is my home town and I would be able to see my family and friends on a regular basis. Second of all Union Berlin is a very stable and well organized team with a lot of sponsors, so there would never be any financial problems like in my past clubs. And third of all Union Berlin was playing in the 2nd Bundesliga competing against teams like RedBull Leipzig, Kaiserslautern, Fortuna Duesseldorf,… so it would be a great chance to prove myself on a good level and be seen by top clubs from the 1st Bundesliga. So I signed a 2 years contract with 1.FC Union Berlin. I believe in Karma and always try to be nice and kind with humans and the nature, so I was thinking that all the bad things that happened in my past are over now and the good things are finally arriving in my life. But to be honest, what could possibly go any worse in my carrier? My last 3 clubs went basically all „broke“ so I thought that it cant get any worse anymore. But again, life proved me wrong. Without a doubt my time at 1.FC Union Berlin turned out the most stressful and hardest times of my life so far.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…Its about learning to dance in the rain. 

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Just about 3 weeks after I signed for Union Berlin, the coach who really wanted to sign me (Norbert Duewel) was sacked and a new Coach was appointed. That was already a bad beginning for me, as the new Coach didn’t knew me and has actually never seen me play. Since I was 17 I moved away from Germany and have been living and playing abroad ever since; so I was still very unknown in German football. That was also the reason that the new Coach preferred to select other players instead of me. Like I mentioned before: I had already over 14 coaches/managers changes in my career so I knew exactly what to do; the only thing left for me to do was to train, work hard and try to win the trust of the new coach. So I tried again to design an own training schedule for me. Usually we trained only once per day, but I always stayed behind on the pitch to do some extra work. Everybody was already gone and I just entered the dressing room to take a shower. After that I drove to the city to eat some lunch. When I was done eating I didn’t drove back home, but back to the empty training complex. I put on new training clothes and spend a couple of hours in the gym. It was already around 6-7 pm but I didn’t want to drive 35 km back to my apartment so I could be fresh for the training the next morning. So I stayed over and slept all by myself in the huge but empty training/stadium complex of Union Berlin. This training schedule I done every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and sometimes Thursday.

Never stop doing your best just because someone doesn’t give you credit.

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A couple of weeks passed and my relationship with the new head coach was getting more and more tensed. I am a honest, direct guy who treats everybody the same and with respect but I also want respect in return. So one day in October 2015 I had a small discussion with the head coach, but nothing serious. The next day the sport director of Union Berlin calls me into his office and tells me that I am „suspended“ from the team. I was not allowed to train with the team anymore, to enter the dressing room and to use the gym. I wasn’t even allowed to enter the Training complex of Union Berlin. I had to train individually with a fitness coach on some other training field. It turned out that I had to bring and wash my own training clothes and the training times were also ridiculous. The worst thing for a professional football player is: not being able or allowed to play games. Because you train and work so hard during the week and preseasons just for the moment when the competition begins. But my situation was even worse: I wasn’t even allowed to train; so that was making me crazy and it felt like a living hell. But my experiences in the past made me stronger and I could handle this situation much more comfortable now.

„So what? I’ve been here many times in my life in some form or another. I’ll eat it all and come back stronger.“ (Conor McGregor)

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My „suspension“ lasted for about 3 months and it was really the hardest, most stressful and worst time of my life. I don’t want to write about this situation so much but it was impossible for me to continue like that and I had to do something; so I took a lawyer. Me and my lawyer Dirk Greiser went to court against Union Berlin to fight for my right to train with the team; and we won the case. So in January 2016 I was able again to train with the 1st team of Union Berlin. But of course the relationship between me and the club was on the edge, so we had to find a solution. In middle of January 2016 my contract with Union Berlin was „broken“ on mutual agreement. So my time at Union Berlin came to an end. Even though it was actually the worst, most stressful and hardest time of my life I have nothing bad to say about this great Club Union Berlin. They probably have the best fans of Germany, the coolest Stadium(in my opinion) and Berlin will always be my most favorite city. I regret nothing in my life and I am very thankful for all the memories. It didn’t turn out how I wished, but I guess that’s why life is so beautiful and will never get boring. You rise, you fall, you stand up and move on. You learn, you change and try again.

New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. 

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It was the middle of January 2016 and I was without a club. I didn’t know what will happen with me. I was suspended for over 3 months and obviously didn’t play any games so I knew it would be really difficult to find a new club. Furthermore it was the middle of the season and teams would not be so active on the transfer-market. There were actually thoughts in my head to find a „real“ job and work or to apply at an university again. Basically quitting on football. But in the middle of February I received a call from one of my best friends Aurelien Joachim, who was playing for White Star Brussels at that time. He told me that his present club is looking for a central defender like me and that he arranged everything already. He said that he convinced the Manager of White Star „John Bico“ that I am the right choice and would do a good job for the club. He also already booked a hotel for me. I couldn’t believe it and was so thankful to him. The following day I flew to Brussels. Only around 1 month ago I broke my contract with Union Berlin and was „unemployed“. I was afraid that my football career is finished and all my dreams and everything I worked so hard for is fading away. So here I was sitting in the office of John Bico, signing a new contract with White Star Brussels, together with Aurelien Joachim who was „representing“ me and acting as my „agent“. I will always be grateful to him and no money in the world could repay what he did for me. I am writing this blog article around 1 year after I came to Belgium and I was so happy to hear 3 weeks ago that his fiance Eefie is pregnant now. (its going to be a girl) In a couple of years I will be able to tell their daughter that her father Aurelien made a big impact on my life, believed in me when nobody else did and opened the door for me in Belgium football. Maybe one day he or me will move to another club abroad of Belgium and we wont see and speak that much to another anymore. But one thing is for sure: I will always be there for him and his family,no matter what.

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There are 4 kinds of friendships:

There are friends like food: You need them every single day.

There are friends like medicine: You look for them, when you feel bad.

There are friends like diseases: They look for you.

And there are friends like air: You don’t see them, but they are always with you. 

Nothing EVER stays the same

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One thing I knew already from the beginning: CSKA Sofia was in financial difficulties. However, I didn’t let it bother me too much and I took the risk. Everything went perfectly. At last I had “made” it; I played for a European top club and was even a starting 11 player. The first 6 games of the season I was in the starting 11 of which we won 5 and drew 1, so everything started perfectly and was just as I had imagined. After the 6th game day, however, our captain Valio Iliev was fit again, as I he was a central defender. Our coach, Stoicho Mladenov, took me to his office and told me, “Denis, you play top, in all games you showed how good you are, but Valio is fit again and he is our captain. He is a living legend at CSKA Sofia and has to play. It’s his last season as a professional Football player and I want you to become the next big central defender for CSKA just like he was. You’ve already proved it to everyone. We have received a few offers from other clubs for you, but we want to keep you for the future. So I offer you a new improved 3-year contract and we all hope you will sign it.” Of course, I already knew that it won’t be easy for me to stay in the team when the club captain is back but I was very happy about the new contract offer. I said to him: „It is nice to hear that other clubs are interested in me, but I am very happy at CSKA. It seems that the club trusts me a lot and to hear that you consider me to be the next big defender makes me happy. I will sign the new contract and try to become a legend here.” I called my parents and told them proudly of my contract extension and of course they shared my joy. My career was going uphill! I found a new and better apartment and signed a 3 year lease with the owner of the apartment, bought a new car and was looking forward to a future in Sofia as a player of CSKA. As a child, I always dreamed of it and now I was living the dream. People recognised me on the streets and my dream of playing international football was within reach. I was sure soon I would play in the Champions League.

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

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I enjoyed the time in Sofia. The 1st half of the season was over and we were top of the league, 8 points clear to Ludogoretz Razgrad.  The owner of Ludogoretz is the one of the richest men in Bulgaria and has bought a top team together. The budget of this team is far above that of the other teams of the A group and is about 5 times higher than of CSKA Sofia. Ludogoretz had won the last 5 championships and even played in the group stage of the Champions League against Liverpool, Real Madrid and Basel. It was almost a miracle that we were 8 points ahead of them.

“Impossible odds set the stage for amazing miracles.”

The winter break was great; I visited my parents in Berlin and spend a few days in Scotland with my sister. I earned good money so I tried to enjoy my life, but also kept my feet on the ground. At the beginning of January, our preparations with CSKA began in Side (Turkey). The accommodation was great and also the surroundings were perfect, in order to be perfectly prepared for the 2nd half of the season. We trained 3 times per day and were exactly 42 days in Side (Turkey). At the end of the training camp we all were top fit, played and won a lot of friendly games against top teams.

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“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”

But in Side we realized that CSKA Sofia had big financial problems. After about 10 days in Side we came back to the hotel after training but all of our “room card keys” didn’t work. Of course, we were all a bit annoyed; we were tired from training and had to return to the reception to change our key cards. We arrived at the reception but they told us that they won’t change our cards because we all have to move out within 2 hours. It turned out that CSKA Sofia had not paid the bill for the hotel yet. As long as the cost of the amount of about 70 000€ would not be paid, we could not enter our rooms. We all were tired and still wet from training, but we had to sit and wait in the hotel lobby for more than 3 hours until our owner would transfer the money. Finally, a deposit was made and our CSKA boss promised that the entire amount would be settled at the end of the 42 days.

Finally, we were allowed to return to our rooms and could take a shower. My roommate, Jakub Divis, was sure that it was probably just a mistake in the system or the CSKA boss accidently forgot to pay the bill. But I was sure that the situation was much worse than he thought. My thoughts were confirmed as we started to get picked up by the worst minibuses to take us to the training fields. Previously, we were picked up by 5-star buses and now they were buses that looked like they were from the pre-war period. In addition we were not allowed to train on the two main fields and had to settle for the small youth fields. When on the 39th day we were even refused to enter the Hotel restaurant, I knew that this was the beginning of the end.

There is good times and there is bad times, but there is still time.

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The 1st game of after the winter break we lost against Lokomotiv Sofia 2-0, which was really a big disgrace for the CSKA. However, Ludogoretz Razgrad also lost their 1st game, so our game was quickly forgotten and we were preparing for the next game. Surprisingly, we also lost the 2nd and 3rd game. In the first half of the season we were so strong and actually nearly won every game and now we lost 3 games in a row?! CSKA Sofia loses 3 games in a row?! I think this never happened before in the history of CSKA Sofia. So it was not a surprise that rumours of game manipulation appeared.

After this 3rd defeat our own fans stormed into our dressing room and were about fight us all. But luckily, the leader of the fan group, which calls itself „Animals“, could calm his group members and each of the players had to ask the “Animals” for forgiveness for the last 3 lost games. I had never seen anything like this before. To “only” apologise would have understandable, but we all had to take off our CSKA jerseys and hand them over to the leader of the “Animals”. To be honest I was bit “shocked” and just repeated what the others were saying: „We are really sorry about how bad we were playing and we promise that it will never happen again.” At the end of this “meeting” the “Animals” left our dressing rooms screaming: „SAMO CSKA, SAMO CSKA, SAMO CSKA“.

Sometimes it is better to react with no reaction.

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On the following day this big crisis of the CSKA was all over the newspapers and news. The reaction of this situation is comparable to if Bayern Munich would lose 10 times in a row. Everywhere on the CSKA base was a bad atmosphere and all of Bulgaria spoke only of the bad CSKA. So I learned through the newspaper that we also got a new owner. I never heard of him before but after his 1st press conference I was very positively surprised by him. He promised us to pay the outstanding salaries and the bonuses, which were already 2 months late, (nothing new for me) before the next game. Of course, all the players were angry about the delay of the salaries. The team planed not to train or play games anymore until the salaries would be paid. Only one remained calm: Denis Prychynenko. My teammates wondered and asked me why I am so calm, so I told them about my experiences in Sevastopol.

Sometimes being silent is the best answer.

My experiences from the past influenced my behaviour in the present. My experience helped me in this situation. Many CSKA players were not used to such a situation and complain that they had to be paid soon otherwise they would start to get financial problems.  However, I was already in situations where I was owed more than 5 months‘ salary. So I behaved differently, I decreased my expenses and saved my money to be prepared for everything. In hindsight, you can always get something positive out of every situation. From each mistake you should take a lesson and make it different the next time and adapt to everything. My mistake in Sevastopol was a poor division of my finances; I did not repeat this mistake this time. From my time in Sevastopol I learned to deal with my money.

A mistake repeated more than once is a decision.

It was Friday, just before the 4th game after the winter break and I was in the starting 11. Every player was sitting in the hotel lobby checking their bank accounts whether the new CSKA owner has kept his word and transferred the money. Of course he didn’t.  It was only Friday, so the owner still had another day to transfer the money; I heard my team members tell to each other. But I knew that there were no transactions on a Saturday. I remember being so angry at him that I couldn’t even concentrate on our game the next day. A man should always keep his words.

If you promise something, keep it… If you talk much, always back it up… Be a man of your words.

It was game day and as usual we had the team talk 3 hours before the game. Our head coach Stoicho Mladenov was standing in front of the group and I could see right away that something was wrong. He said: “As you can see, the people above me keep lying to us and being disrespectful towards us. I am leaving CSKA Sofia and will not be your Head Coach anymore. Thank you for everything and everybody who was always loyal towards me and the club. Good bye.” I was shocked by these words, as I really liked him as a coach and person and felt sorry for him. Well the 1st game without Mladenov we drew 0-0 and I made a good game. The following day a new head coach was introduced who basically just sorted out all of your foreign players (and we were about 60% foreigners in the team) so of course we lost another 3 games in a row and he was fired.

Open your arms to change, but do not let go of your values.

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It was April 2015 and we still hadn’t received our salaries for January 2015. It was clear that CSKA was in big troubles and the media even talked about bankruptcy. Through the newspapers, I also realized that CSKA Sofia didn’t receive the License of International football for the coming season. We dropped from 1st place with 8 points ahead of Ludogorez to 4th place and we knew that it would be difficult to reach on international spot but now it was sure that this didn’t matter anymore. For what are we playing now? Whether we win or lose it didn’t matter as we had no international license anyway. We kept losing and now the media even spoke of not receiving the Pro- License for the next season. This would mean that the big CSKA Sofia had to go down to amateur level in the 4th league. But no one believed this rumours as CSKA is one of the biggest clubs in east Europa and was never bankrupt before. Furthermore everybody knew that our fans would go mental if that would happen. And nobody would want the “Animals” to go mental. So I was sure that CSKA Sofia would never go bankrupt.

It was the last game of the season 2014/15 and I wasn’t able to play as I was suspended. (5 yellow cards) Just before the game our owner came into the dressing room and said: “Guys, don’t worry, we will receive the Pro-License. Furthermore I promise that your salaries were paid today and should be on your account on Monday. So good luck today and win the game.” Actually I believed everything he said because we had a lot of Icons of Jesus and Maria in our dressing room and I knew that the Bulgarians are very faithful. So I was sure that he wouldn’t lie in this room.

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With these words the owner left the dressing room and we won that game with 3:0. It was like a small happy end to this season. We won the last game of the season and on Monday I would have more than 3 salaries on my account, which was a big amount for me. So I has in a good mood. I had a flight ticket to Berlin on Monday but I changed it to Tuesday as I wanted to check my account and take some money of it for my summer holiday.

It was Monday and I didn’t leave my apartment all day. I was too nervous and constantly checking my phone for the SMS confirmation that the money arrived on my account. I waited and waited but didn’t receive the SMS. Suddenly a teammate called and said: „Denis I just had the owner on the phone and he told me that there were some technical problems with the transfer and that the money will be on our accounts 100% tomorrow. This was a pity. Again I changed my flight to Wednesday which cost me another 50€. But also on Tuesday I didn’t received the SMS. I was watching TV and at around 3pm there was a special report on the news: „CSKA SOFIA BANKRUPT, NO PROFESSIONAL LICENSE RECEIVED.” I was so angry, I can’t even describe it.

Immediately I drove to IKEA, bought 4 big suitcases, drove back to my apartment and packed all of my clothes into the big cases. Then I called my team mate Jakub Divis who told me that he would leave Sofia tonight by car to his Hometown Praag and asked him: “Jakub, do you still have space for me and 4 suitcases?” He just laughed and said: “Of course, it’s a 14 hours’ drive so you can keep me awake.” Then I called the owner of my apartment and told him that I am leaving this place tonight for good and put the rent money for 2 more months on the table.” He was about to say something but I hanged up the phone already. Then I called a taxi and drove to Jakubs house. I arrived and all I said was: “Common man, let’s get out of this place.” This negative attitude towards my time in Bulgaria disappeared within a couple of days. I said to myself:

 Whether the situation is good or bad – it will change.

When I arrived in Berlin 2 days later I already missed Sofia a bit. When I think back to my time in Bulgaria I only get positive feelings. The negative moments I had I just converted to funny stories. I will never forget this beautiful country, the beautiful city Sofia, this fascinating Bulgarian culture, the new friends that I made the amazing CSKA Sofia fans and this legendary club CSKA Sofia. Many of my family and friends wonder why I always speak so good about my time in Sofia, because many unpleasant things happened there to me and the club still owns me a big amount of money. But I regret nothing. If I had the power to turn back the time, when I decided to sign for CSKA Sofia, I would do the exact same again. It was an amazing time and I am sure I will visit Bulgaria many more times. Furthermore I learned one big thing in Bulgaria; I have learned to forgive people who ever done any harm to me.

I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.

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So that was the end of my time at CSKA Sofia. Exactly 1 year ago I made my debut for one of the biggest clubs in east Europe, signed a new 3 year deal, was creating a big and promising career for myself and everything was just perfect. I had a life without worries and had daydreams about my future: Becoming a legend at CSKA Sofia, playing on international Level with them and receiving offers from other big clubs. And this future actually started to become realistic. Everything was going uphill but now I was at the bottom again. My 3 year contract meant nothing anymore. I was “unemployed” again. That’s how fast things can change; that’s how life can go. But I have learned a lot from it. In Sofia I met many people, good and bad, so the moral of this time in Sofia which I made for myself is:

Treat everyone good and with respect, even those who are rude to you. Not because they are decent people, but because you are a decent man.

A small storie:

One day a young man was walking down the street and saw an old man sitting on the edge of the street selling posters with quotes on it. The young man went to him and said: – “Old man, you seem very old and wise and have seen and experienced so many things in your life; tell me:  I am a young and strong man but nowhere I can find a job, I have a son who is a drug addict, I have a daughter who is a prostitute and my wife is an alcoholic and does nothing in and around our house. What should I do? How can I change things to be better? Give me an advice please”.

The old man handed him a poster with a quote on it and replied: –“Here young man, I give you this poster with the quote “Nothing EVER stays the same. Hang this poster on your door.”

“And that’s it?”, asked the young man. “Yes”, said the old man.

The young man followed this advice. After some time his son quit drugs and became a priest; his daughter fell in love and married a nice man; his wife rehabilitated from her alcohol problem and became a good wife; he found a good paid job and was driving around in an expensive car.

One day, the young man passed the same street where he met the old man. The old man was still sitting there selling his posters. The young drove up to the old man and slightly opened his window, without leaving the car and said: – “Well, old man, you still sitting here? As you can see, I reached everything that I wanted. My son stopped using drugs and became a Priest. My daughter married a nice man and stared her own family. My wife quit drinking and became a good housewife. And I got a job and now I am the big boss of the company. But you are still sitting here selling your posters you worthless old man. And what do you advise me now?” The old man looked at him and said: “Nothing EVER stays the same.”

Making right decisions

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Now the time of the club search began again. But as I noted last year, it is a feasible undertaking. I discovered that there are several stages in the process of the club search. 1st you think: Shit, again I am unemployed. What if I don’t find anything? How will my future look like?  After this very negative phase you eventually get to the point where you start to get new hope. Every small achievement (for example, the call of an agent) gets absorbed. Mentally this small phone call appears a stronger then it is. You begin to imagine positive outcomes and start to take more courage from it. All this positivity is only triggered by a small phone call from an agent who tells you that there might be something possible for me at a certain club. It follows the next stage, when your secret hope is turning into anticipation and excitement. You think: This club search is the start of something new; I’m looking forward to meet new people, to see and settle at a new city or country. These 3 stages I still remember and went through during the summer break before the season 2014/15.

Usually you will always get what you expect. So think positive.

I arrived back home in Berlin and found out that my 3-year contract with FK Sevastopol is worth nothing anymore, because the club no longer exists. FK Sevastopol went bankrupt and was liquidated. This negative message and the thought of the upcoming month made this moment even more unbearable. I decided to cancel my summer holiday and completely focus on the search of a new club. Also physically I didn’t rest and trained on the artificial grass pitch next to our apartment for more than 3 hours per day and additionally spend 5 times per week in the gym, to keep myself fit for trials with new clubs. I knew that if I have to go for a trial somewhere, most players will not be as fit as they would come straight from their summer vacations. To increase my chances I decided to keep a maximal level of my fitness so I would be a step ahead of most of the players.

The will to succeed means nothing without the WILL to prepare

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I wrote to every agent I had in my contact list. The year before, I had contacted more than 100 agents, which made it a lot easier this year. In addition, new agents and clubs called me, as it was official that FK Sevastopol was liquidated and all the players were free agents. So I already was in a good starting position and a few teams were already expecting me for preseason. I had already some experience with this kind of situation because of my past, so I knew that it would be unwise to reject immediately, you should always keep your options open and always agree to trial training, it’s never too late to reject a contract at the end. The summer break was coming to an end and I already had a few concrete offers, which I only had to sign. But I wanted to wait a little longer. The phone rang and an agent from Iran was on the line saying that one of the biggest clubs there was looking for a player like me. They had been scouting me before and wanted me to fly to their preseason training camp in Istanbul; right away.

The club really wanted to sign me and offered me a salary of more than 300 000 Euro net per year. It was a 3 year contract with increasing salary every year. I asked the agent to give me maximum 1 day to think about this offer and I promised to call him back the following day. Of course I asked my mother for advice. My mother was very enthusiastic about this and recommended me to sign the contract, because on one hand I would make good money and on the other hand the experience to live in Iran would be invaluable. But my father disagreed. He was also very enthusiastic about the contract, but something else bothered him and he said to me, „Yeah, Denis, there you can earn a lot of money and certainly provide for your future, but when you come back to Europe in 3 years’ time it will be very difficult for you to find a new team. All the hours, days, and years of hard work that you have invested to become one of the best defenders in the world would have been for nothing but the money; if you go there, you only go for the salary and not for the love of the game. You are still very young (22) and can still achieve a lot. You can accept this offer when you are older.” I thought a lot about it and finally I decided to follow the advice of my mother. So I called the agent and told him that I will be ready to fly tomorrow. I started searching online for one way flight tickets to Istanbul. My mother was still thinking about all the pros and cons of this decision, but my father was still not convinced. Within a few minutes I had found the right ticket and was about to pay the ticket online.

Don’t let your dreams be controlled by these things: the past, other people and money.

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But suddenly my phone rang and my old team captain of FK Sevastopol, Mariuz Lewandowski, was on the line. Mariuz is one of the best footballers in the history of Polish football. He played many years for Shakhtar Donetsk, won with Shakhtar the UEFA CUP in 2009 and ended his career at FK Sevastopol. He said to me, „Denis, I have good news for you. The club CSKA Sofia is looking for a young central defender. They are very interested in you and invite you to Sofia tomorrow. CSKA Sofia is one of the biggest clubs in Eastern Europe. They have played in the Champions League and are the record champions in Bulgaria. This year they are playing in the European league and are looking for a central defender like you. I put in a very good word about you and within a few minutes you will receive a call from a good friend of mine who is also the Club agent of CSKA Sofia, Alex Mladenov.” To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about this phone call in the 1st minutes and I planned to reject this offer as soon as Mariuz has finished speaking. After all, I already made my mind up to move to Iran. Mariuz continued to explaining what a fantastic team CSKA Sofia is and slowly I started to realize what kind of possibilities and doors this club could open for me. If I would play 1 or 2 good seasons for CSKA Sofia, I could get a move to one of the big teams in European football.

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I thanked Mariuz and I said that I would like to hear what the club agent of CSKA Sofia would say or and propose me. The conversation with Mariuz ended and the eyes of my father were gleaming. Full of enthusiasm, he said, „Denis, do you know how big the name CSKA Sofia is? If you sign there and will play regularly, you can go to any big team in Eastern Europe and your Iran or even the Emirates. Above all, you would play at an international level and could show yourself „. It began a long discussion of the pros and contras. The contract in Sofia was smaller than in Iran, but the opportunity to reach my biggest goals – to play in the Champions League and win it – made up for all possible disadvantages. I immediately called the agent from the Iran and cancelled his offer. The next morning I flew to Sofia.

If your dreams don’t scare you they are not big enough.

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It was a Friday and the team was preparing for the qualification game of the Europa League on the following day at home against Zimbru. The team had already done a preseason of about 2 months and all players were top fit. On this day I trained individually with the Fitness coach, who made a few fitness tests with me. He was surprised how fit I was. The team had already finished their preseason and survived 2 training camps but I was just as fit as they were. I told the fitness coach that I had been training the whole summer break every day with my father to be prepared perfectly. So I had done everything right.

Winning is the science of being totally prepared.

The next day CSKA Sofia played against Zimbru in the Europa League qualification and was the absolute favourite to win the game. I had a VIP ticket for the game and was absolutely taken by the atmosphere. The fans of CSKA Sofia were simply amazing; such a good mood, singing, screaming and making choreographies. I took about 10 videos and am still totally fascinated by these fans and the love to their club.

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Unfortunately, they only drew 1:1. On Monday, I had my 1st training session with the team and I had a very good day. We done a short game and I made a great impression. Immediately after the training, the legendary coach Stoicho Mladenov called me to his office. The agent Alex (also the son of Stoicho) and the sports director were already present and offered me a contract, which I should sign immediately as they wanted to register me as soon as possible. I read everything carefully and on this day I signed a 1 year contract with CSKA Sofia. It was a great honor for me to be part of a club with such a great name and I thanked everyone. The following days and training sessions went super and throughout the week I was part of the starting 11. I thought the coach just wanted to get a better picture of me or just give me the opportunity to integrate myself into the team. The 1st season match took place at the end of the week, away against Litex Lovech. I only trained 3 times with the team and didn’t even know the names of the players yet. But on the game day I found myself standing in the starting 11. Finally my time came again. I had a hard summer, no time for holiday, hours and hours of training, and fearful thoughts what my future will bring. But here I was again. Doing the thing I love the most.  My mother always says, „Do not fear changes, they usually come when you need them most.“

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All I want is to play football. It is the love of my life and finally I was back playing on the field, for a top club and the future looked promising again. 4 weeks earlier, I was mentally knocked out and certainly it would have been much easier just to give up. I was plagued by thoughts like: Why do I keep doing all this? I train and work so hard, for what? If I had a normal job with regular income I wouldn’t have all this stress, the failures, the pressure, the frustration, all the setbacks, constant pain thinking about what I haven’t achieved yet. I could finally just take a holiday with my friends, enjoy the time when I am home and not move every year to another city trying to settle and fail again. But all these negative thoughts and memories are lost within 1 second; when I stand on the pitch and play football. Nothing else can calm my negative thoughts apart from football. Nothing else can let me forget the negative memories. The feeling when I am on the field and the referee whistle starts the game is just indescribable to me. I feel like: That’s where I belong, I need nothing else; I am home.

“Sir, what is your secret of success? “–a journalist asked to a successful Businessman.

“Making right decisions “– He replied in only 3 words.

“And how do you know what’s the right decisions? – asked the journalist

 “Experience” – The Businessman replied in 1 word.  

“And how do you get this experience?” – was the last question of the journalist.

“By making wrong decisions”

Feelings don’t die

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The second half of the season 2013/14 at FK Sevastopol was certainly one of the most interesting a football player can imagine. Our winter pre-season was extended from 1 month to 3 months. My team and I were in Turkey at training camp while in Kiev (capital of Ukraine) it came to large demonstrations on the Maidan which resulted into a civil war. The Ukrainian Football Federation feared that some of the aggressive demonstrators would come to the Crimea and cause some trouble, so our 1st game of 2014 against Tavria Simferopol was cancelled/ postponed. I was a little disappointed because my cousin played for Tavria Simferopol and I was already really up for the game. But safety comes first; we stayed 1 month longer in Turkey and wondered what is happening or will happen on “our” island Crimea. Just a few days after our return, the big moment came. It was the 16th of March 2014; the day of the referendum and the fate of the Crimea should be decided. On this day all citizens of Crimea could give their vote whether they wanted to continue to belong to the Ukraine, or whether the Crimea should be part of Russia again. The results were in and how expected: over 90% voted to leave the Ukraine and be part of Russia again. It wasn’t a surprise as the Crimea used to be part of Russia before and the majority of the resident s of Crimea were still Russians. I am proud to say that I was part of this historical moment of the 16th of March 2014. After the results were in and red out on the news the whole Crimea turned into a party-island; people took out their Russian flags and started to celebrate. Everyone was in high spirits; singing the Russian national anthem and were proud to belong to Russia from now on.

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On this day I was sitting and chilling in my favourite Café named Schokoladniza and eating my dinner. Suddenly my cell phone rang and my mother was on the line; crying.

She was in panic and said: „Denis, how are you? Please fly back to Berlin today. In the German news they show Russian tanks, aircrafts and bombing on the Crimea. They say that Russia has attacked the Crimea with violence and it’s too dangerous there. Please fly home immediately.“

I was quite shocked by the words of my mother and tried to calm her immediately. I explained to her that I am sitting here in the centre of Sevastopol; everything is normal and the situation is completely relaxed. Here was not one tank, no single bomb, no aircraft and I didn’t even see a single Russian soldier to be honest.  Everybody is in party mood. Now you can see again how the media is influencing and manipulating people. Everything said on the News was complete nonsense.

Dont let your ears witness what your eyes didnt see.

I ended the phone call by saying, „Mama, be proud of me, I can witness “live” one of the most historical moments in the history of Crimea and one day I will tell my future children about it.“

The day after started a little weird. Usually our training starts at 11:00 so I got ready and left my house. Yesterday was such an interesting and great day, so I planned to arrive a little earlier at the training ground, because I was sure that there would be a lot to talk about with my teammates. That’s why I arrived 10:30 at the training ground. As I walked towards our changing rooms, I noticed that all the players were already on the field in the middle of the training session. Shocked, I ran to the team manager and asked what was wrong and why the training session had already begun so early. He explained to me that the Crimea belongs now to Russia, so that’s why the time was converted to Moscow time. At midnight, all the clocks were changed one hour and therefore it was already 11:30 when I arrived. But I was not the only one who had missed this important fact. We had a lot of foreigners in the team and all of us came too late. Fortunately we didn’t have to pay a fine.

But that was not all, the next surprise followed on my way home. After training, I called a taxi, and ordered to drive me to the center as I wanted to eat some lunch. The taxi came on time and we arrived in the center. I gave the driver the usual 20 hryvna. Instead of accepting it, he pointed to a sign inside the taxi: „Only rubles (Russian currency)“. Of course I didn’t have any rubles; luckily the driver made an exception and accepted my money. However, he advised me to go immediately to the Bank and change all my hryvna into rubles. Everything began to change. Within a short period of time the cars used Russian license plates and the residents applied for Russian citizenship.

A week later we had our 1st game after the winter break in Dnepropetrovsk (in Ukraine). We couldn’t fly because the airports in Crimea were closed. So we went off with our team bus to the 15 hours distanced Dnepropetrovsk. The game was not so good and we were on our way home. On the border to the Crimea, which existed now, we were stopped and our passports were checked. For several hours we were stuck at the border. Then, the Russian border guards came to our bus and said, „The people Farley Rosa (Brazil) and Denis Prychynenko (German) have to get off the bus now! You can’t enter the Crimea „. Everybody was shocked, especially the two of us. Our team manager got out to explain to the soldiers that we are also players of FK Sevastopol and Sevastopol is our residence. We were explained that German and Brazilians need a visa now to enter the Crimea, since the Crimea is part of Russia now. Only by presenting our original working contracts with FK Sevastopol, they would let us enter the Crimea for the last time. As for the next time we had to make a visa. Of course we didn’t have our original contracts with us. The bus with all the other players was allowed to enter and drove off, while the 2 of us had to wait for another 10h at the border to the Crimea until the manager returns with our original contracts.  That was one of the longest and most stressful bus trips of my life.

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Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a story.

As the time progressed the Crimea became more and more “Russified”. For the Ukraine and the Ukrainian football that was of course a great loss, as 2 traditional clubs, Tavria Simferopol and FK Sevastopol were based on the Crimea. The Ukrainian media exaggerated immeasurably in describing the situation on the Crimea. So that’s why the Ukrainian teams were scared to come to the Crimea as they thought that it will „expose a danger“ to come here.  So Tavria Simferopol and FK Sevastopol had to play their “home” games in Kiev or other Ukrainian cities. Contrary to reports of the media, the life on the Crimea improved increasingly. I was glad especially for the part of my family, who lived in Crimea. Many people criticize Vladimir Putin, but my family and I are very grateful to him for the improvements he has made and is still making on the Crimea.

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Unfortunately, the football situation on the Crimea went downhill. The club president, Novitskij, promised to pay our salaries, which we didn’t receive for the past 3 months. He promised that he will keep taking care of the club in the future. Novitskij is a Ukrainian from Kiev so obviously h wanted to keep his team in the Ukrainian Premier League. He said that there are already some options like: moving FK Sevastopol to Kiev and rename the club. But the club had no interest in this, as its home is on the Crimea.

Instead FK Sevastopol applied to be part of the Russian Premier League. To be allowed to play the upcoming season 2014/15 in the “Russian Premier League”, would have been the best output, which you can imagine.  However, in the Russian Premier League is a limited number for foreign players allowed, but in FK Sevastopol played not a single Russian.

The club chairman Krasilnikov called me to his office just before I planned to fly home to Berlin for my holidays. He told me: „Denis, don’t worry, we will go to the Russian Premier League and want you to keep you. You should be one of the few that remain in the team. You still have a 3-year contract, we simply take the contract over.“ With these words I went on my vacation. But I knew that still nothing was certain. What should I do, how should I decide? Search for a new club? Trust the Chairperson? All my questions were answered after a few weeks. FK Sevastopol was not accepted into the Russian Premier League. Again my life had “knocked me down “and my future was uncertain. I tried to calm myself:

Believe in God at every time, even when you don’t understand him.      

I strongly believe in God and I always try to be a good person, but in that kind of times I often ask to myself why does everything has to be so complicated. Why cannot I just make the thing that makes me happy the most; to play football, without stress and worry’s for a change.

If you ask someone, „What is the meaning of Happiness for you,“ you will find out what they miss the most.

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In the last months of my time at FK Sevastopol I have experienced a lot of negative things, until now the clubs owns me 5 months’ of my salary and bonuses of a 5-figure sum. Nevertheless the good memories of my time there outweigh the bad memories. I improved myself football wise, became a better person, made many good friends and was able to live for 1 year on the most beautiful island in the world and the home of my family. In this year I’ve learned a lot for my future life and I thank everybody who has helped me and was part of it. The Football on the Crimea has made a complete restart, now there is a Crimean Championship with 10 teams. Hopefully the football there will keep improving and maybe they can play in the Russian Premier League one day. And if that will be the case, that Sevastopol will promote to the Russian Premier League, then I would be more than happy to be part of this club again. I said it about Heart of Midlothian and I will say the same about FK Sevastopol: I love you.

Feelings don’t die easily because we keep feeding them with memories.

You get what you give

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After our winter preparation in Turkey, we came back to Sevastopol and I had no apartment. Since I wasn’t in Sevastopol for the past 3 months (1 month vacation in Berlin and after 2 months preparation in Turkey) I had cancelled my agreement with my old apartment. I decided to look for a new apartment together with my teammate. Together we were able to afford a large house just 10m from the Black Sea, just perfect! He was a new player in the team and his wife had stayed home in Lithuania; we got along just fine, which makes being flatmates much easier.

Approximately 30 meters away from our house was a small rubbish dump consisting of 3 huge bins for residual waste and 2 huge bins for paper waste. There was a homeless man looking after this “rubbish dumb” and also used the paper bins as his sleeping place; his name was Peter. The government paid him lousy 50 hryvna per month (back then that was around 7 €). There are many prejudices against the homeless people, not just in Russia and Ukraine. One of the most popular assumptions is that they drink a lot of alcohol and are very violent. But this homeless guy had never drank alcohol in his life and was always friendly. He was doing a great job and always held this rubbish dump clean.

Do not judge a man until you have walked a long distance in his shoes.

Every day I passed this place and saw this guy sweeping and sorting garbage. After 1 week, I decided to buy him a large Coke and a pizza. I brought it to him and so we started a conversation. It turned out that Peter used to be a solid man; he had lived together with his brother in the house of their dad, who had passed away unfortunately. The brother couldn’t cope with that and started to spend nearly every day in casinos to gamble. One day his gambling went too far and he had lost their house to some gambling friends and committed suicide shortly afterwards. So Peter lived from one salary to the next and couldn’t afford to rent an apartment. So there was no other choice than to move on the streets of Sevastopol. A short time after he had lost his job and moved to the small “rubbish dump” next to my house. It turned out that Peter had been living there for over 20 years now. He is sleeping in one of the bins for paper, since it’s a little warmer inside them.  Peter went through many negative  experiences in his life and always suffered setbacks, but he kept fighting constantly and made the best of his situation. One thing surprised me: Life had made it very difficult for him, he saw a lot of bad things and people always mistreated him, but never the less he was one of the most polite and respectful man I have ever met and he never done any harm to others and always wished the people walking by love and health. So I asked him one day what his secret to keep such a positive attitude is. He smiled and told me the following small story:

„A long time ago an old Indian told his grandson one life wisdom. In each of us is a battle going on, very similar to a fight between 2 wolves. One wolf represents the BAD – envy, jealousy, selfishness, greed, self-pity, arrogance and distrust. The other wolf represents GOOD – peace, love, hope, kindness, gratitude, friendliness, goodness and understanding. The little Indians thought for a moment and finally asked: “And which Wolf will win?” The old man smiled and replied: “It always wins the wolf you feed”.

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So we became friends and I visited him every day and brought him some food. From time to time I also brought clothing (jackets, shoes) and hygiene products such as soap and towels.

But then the Crimean crisis broke out and the owner of FK Sevastopol stopped to pay any salaries to the players and stuff. Usually I transferred the main part of my salary straight to my German account and kept a certain amount in cash for my daily expenses for 1 month. But as we didn’t got paid the following month, my cash started to come to an and I went to the bank to withdraw money from my German account. But it turned out that due to the current crisis NO bank in Sevastopol was allowed to give out money so it wasn’t possible to withdraw money for anybody. That was a shock because I only had 40 hryvna (around 5 € at that time) left. The food in Ukraine was quite cheap and I had to be very careful with my last money, under these circumstances it’s possible to survive for two days.

I didn’t call my usual taxi driver, but instead I walked home from the training ground. On the way I bought myself my dinner for this night and in my wallet were 11 hryvna left. I don’t like borrowing money from others so I didn’t tell anyone of my grievance. Of course I passed my friend Peter; I had bought EVERY day something to eat and drink for him. Even when we had away games and my team and I would be gone for a couple days, I made sure and I buy enough food and drink for Peter when I’m absent. But on this day I hadn’t bought anything for him, because I had nothing for breakfast for myself for the following morning. When I came closer I saw him already sitting cosy on his stone and warming himself of the fire. Every step became harder and harder, because I knew that he is relying on me. Of course he wouldn’t be me mad, if I had nothing for him this night, but I just couldn’t make it up with myself. So I ran back to the grocery store and bought the usual Cola and Pizza of my remaining 11 hryvna. The funny thing was I knew exactly that I was “broke” at this moment and would have nothing to eat for the next morning, but nevertheless I was absolutely excited that I could make Peter happy. Having spent some time with Peter at his fire I went home, “broke” but with a smile on my face.

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Give people more than they expect and do it with happiness.

The next day I woke up early because I had to walk to training and also I was very hungry.  When I arrived at the training ground the accountant manager greeted me joyfully and said: „Denis, come to the office, today everybody gets their salaries for the past 3 months.“ This 2 quotes reflect everything I just talked about:

 “The Secret of wealth: First start with giving, and after getting.”

And

 “Don’t walk through life just playing football. Don’t walk through life just being an athlete. Athletics will fade. Character and integrity and really making an impact on someone’s life, that’s the ultimate vision, that’s the ultimate goal – bottom line.” (Ray Lewis)

 

GERMAN VERSION

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Nach unserer Wintervorbereitung in der Tuerkei kamen wir nach Sevastopol zurueck und ich hatte keine Wohnung. Da ich drei Monate lang nicht in Sevastopol war (ein Monat Urlaub in Berlin und im Anschluss zwei Monate Vorbereitung in der Tuerkei) hatte ich meinen Mietvertrag gekuendigt. Ich beschloss gemeinsam mit einem Mannschaftskollegen nach einer Wohnung zu suchen. Zusammen konnten wir uns eine grosse Wohnung direkt am Meer leisten, einfach perfekt! Er war neu in der Mannschaft und sein Frau war zuhause in Litauen geblieben, wir verstanden uns prima, was ein WG-Leben um einiges angenehmer macht.

Etwa 30 m von unserem Haus entfernt befand sich ein kleiner Muellplatz, bestehend aus 3 Tonnen fuer Restmuell und zwei Tonnen fuer Papier. Diesen Platz “beaufsichtigte” ein Obdachloser namens Peter, der dafuer von der Stadt lausige 50 Hryvna pro Monat bekam (damals umgerechnet 7 Euro). Es gibt viele Vorurteile gegen Obdachlose, nicht nur in Russland und der Ukraine. Eine der beliebtesten Annahmen ist, dass sie viel trinken und gewalttaetig sind. Doch dieser Obdachlose hatte noch nie in seinem Leben Alkohol getrunken und war immer freundlich. Er ging seiner Pflich gewissenhaft nach und hielt diesen kleinen Muellplatz immer sauber.

Do not judge a man until you have walked a long distance in his shoes.

Taeglich ging ich dort vorbei und sah diesen Mann fegen und Muell sortieren. Nach einer Woche beschloss ich ihm eine grosse Cola und eine Pizza zu kaufen. Ich brachte sie ihm und wir kamen ins Gespraech. Es stellte sich herraus, dass Peter ein solider Mann war, er hatte mit seinem Bruder zusammen in der Wohnung ihres Vaters gelebt, der leider verstarb. Der Bruder konnte es nicht verkraften und verbrachte immer oefter der ganzen Tag im Casino. Eines Tages verspielte er die gemeinsame Wohnung und beging kurz darauf Selbstmord. Peter lebte von einem Gehalt zum naechsten und konnte sich keine Mietwohnung leisten. So blieb ihm nichts anderes uebrig als auf die Strasse zu ziehen. Nur kurze Zeit spaeter verlor er auch seine Arbeit und zog auf den kleinen Muellplatz neben meiner Wohnung. Es stellte sich heraus, dass Peter dort nun schon seit ueber 20 Jahren lebt. Er schlaeft in einer der Tonnen fuer Papier, da es dort ein wenig waermer ist. Peter hat schon so viele negative Erlebnisse in seinem Leben gehabt und immer wieder Rueckschlaege erlitten, doch er kaempfte immer weiter und machte das beste aus seiner Situation. Eine Sache erstaunte mich. Obwohl das Leben ihm uebel mitgespielt hatte, es ihm schlecht ging und die Leute ihn schlecht behandelten, ist er doch immer ein hoeflicher und respektvoller Mann geblieben, der seinen Mitmenschen nichts Boeses wuenscht und Liebe ausstrahlt. So fragte ich ihn eines Tages, was sein Rezept sei. Er laechelte und erzaehlte mir folgende kurze Geschichte:

“Vor langer Zeit teilte ein alter Indianer mit seinem Enkel eine Lebensweisheit. In jedem von uns tobt ein Kampf, der sehr dem Kampf zwischen zwei Woelfen aehnelt. Der eine Wolf repraesentiert das Boese – Neid, Eifersucht, Egoismus, Gier, Selbstmitleid, Ueberheblichkeit und Missgunst. Der andere Wolf repraesentiert das Gute – Frieden, Liebe, Hoffnung, Liebenswuerdigkeit, Dankbarkeit, Wohlwollen, Guete und Verstaendnis. Der kleine Indianer versank fuer einen Moment in Gedanken und fragte schliesslich: Und welcher Wolf siegt am Ende? Der Alte laechelte und entgegnete: Es siegt immer der Wolf, den du fuetterst.”

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So wurden wir Freunde und ich kam taeglich mit Essen vorbei. Ab und zu brachte ich auch Kleidung (Jacken, Schuhe) und Hygieneartikel wie Seife und Handtuecher mit.

Dann brach die Krim-Krise aus und meiner Mannschaft wurde kein Gehalt mehr gezahlt. Ich hatte mein Gehalt immer sofort auf mein Konto in Deutschland ueberwiesen und hatte immer nur eine gewisse  Menge in bar fuer die noetigsten monatlichen Ausgaben. Als sich mein Bargeld im Folgemonat dem Ende neigte, ging ich zur Bank, um Geld abzuheben. Doch es stellte sich heraus, dass auf Grund der laufenden Krise keine einzige Bank in Sevastopol Geld auszahlt. Das war ein Schock, da ich nur noch knapp 40 Hryvna (damals umgerechnet 5 Euro) auf der Hand hatte. Die Lebensmittel in der Ukraine sind recht billig und ich ging sehr sparsam mit meinem letzten Geld um, unter diesen Umstaenden kann man damit zwei Tage lang auskommen.

Ich nahm keine Taxi nachhause, sondern ging zu Fuss nachhause, auf dem Weg kaufte ich mir noch mein Abendessen und in meinem Portemonnaie blieben 11 Hryvna uebrig. Ich leihe mir nicht gerne Geld, also erzaehlte ich niemandem von meinem Missstand. Natuerlich kam ich bei meinem Freund Peter vorbei, dem ich bis dahin taeglich etwas mitgebracht hatte. Wenn wir mit meiner Mannschaft eine Auswaertsspiel hatten, kaufte ich auch Essen fuer die Tage, in denen ich abwesend sein wuerde. Doch an dem besagten Tag hatte ich nichts gekauft fuer ihn, da ich selbst noch nichts fuer den naechsten Tag hatte. Als ich naeher kam sah ich ihn schon gemuetlich auf seinem Stein sitzen und sich am Lagerfeuer waermen. Jeder Schritt wurde schwieriger, da ich wusste, dass er sich auf mich verlaesst. Natuerlich wuerde er mir nicht boese sein, wenn ich ihm nichts geben wuerde, aber ich konnte es einfach nicht ueber mich bringen. Ich rannte zum Supermarkt zurueck und kaufte die uebliche Cola und die Pizza von meinen restlichen 11 Hryvna. Das komische dabei war, ich wusste genau, dass ich jetzt pleite war und fuer den naechsten Morgen selbst nichts haben wuerde, nichtsdestotrotz freute ich mich riesig, dass ich Peter gluecklich machen konnte. Nachdem ich ein bisschen Zeit mit Peter an seinem Lagerfeuer verbracht habe ging ich nach Hause, pleite und dennoch mit einem Laecheln im Gesicht.

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Gebe den Menschen mehr als sie erwarten und tue es mit Freude.

Am naechsten Tag machte ich mich frueh zum Training auf, zu Fuss und hungrig. Da kam mir unser Manager entgegen und gruesste mich freudig: “Denis, komm mit ins Buero, heute gibt es Gehalt fuer die letzten 3 Monate.”Zwei Zitate geben perfekt wieder, wovon ich selbst ueberzeugt bin:

„Das Geheimnis des Lebens: Erst geben und dann bekommen.“

Und

 “Don’t walk through life just playing football. Don’t walk through life just being an athlete. Athletics will fade. Character and integrity and really making an impact on someone’s life, that’s the ultimate vision, that’s the ultimate goal – bottom line.” (Ray Lewis)

If you are going through hell, KEEP GOING.

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My first day as an official player of FK Sevastopol went as usual. There was a press conference to introduce myself as a new player in the team and after I stared training with the team. But the coach who signed me and really wanted me as a player left FK Sevastopol just 2 weeks after I signed my contract. The new coach obviously didn’t know me, as I was a new player and had never played in the Ukrainian premier League before. So my start at Sevastopol was again a hard and tough challenge in my life. As I was new and young he didn’t put me in the team and preferred to play the more experienced players, so I had to work very hard to win his trust and prove my place in the team. But I trained hard and gave all my best every single day. A player who doesn’t play and sits often on the bench has no other choice than to keep working hard and use every day to improve yourself so one day you can convince the coach that you are ready and waiting for your moment. Of course you can also choose another way and change the clubs if you are really not feeling happy anymore.

If you are unhappy with the place and rang you are, change it. It’s easy – you’re not a tree!

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But that was not the case with me. Although I didn’t play much, I felt very comfortable in the team and in Sevastopol. When I think back to my time in Sevastopol, only beautiful images come to my mind. It’s a fantastic city, with a stunning landscape; the mountains and the Black Sea to their feet. There I also met some friends for live, such as Bessart Ibraimi, who was sort of my mentor in Sevastopol. He lived there already 2 years, showed me many places and helped me with many things. Moreover he was also an impressive motivator. Whenever I didn’t play I was obviously a little depressed and made myself negative thoughts whether I would play at all, or when do I finally get my chance for the 1st team, he said:

„Denis, wake up! You are not here…you are not living this moment right NOW… throw away your concerns…don’t think too much about the future. What will happen, will happen. You have to live NOW. Life is short, and therefore you should not waste time, you need to enjoy it. WAKE UP Denis! Some people can live a whole life time never being awake…don’t be one of them.

These words burned so deeply into my mind, that I’m still living that way today; more than 2 years after. Of course it’s hard at times to keep your mind always like that, but I try and one day, that’s for sure, it will be like clockwork.

I actually enjoyed my life. This also had a positive influence on my performance, I worked hard, gave 110 percent at every training session, even though I was not playing. Because of my work rate and fighting spirit I earned big respect within the team. Finally, the coach Orbu began to play me and I showed my qualities. My hard work had paid off and I played in the Ukrainian Premier League, which counts among the top 10 leagues in Europe. There was even first talks about a new contract for me. I was offered a new 3 year contract with higher wages and bonuses.

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Everything had turned out great. But after a few weeks then another shock: Orbu got sacked. New manager at FK Sevastopol was now Konovalov. And everything started all over again for me.  Just a couple of weeks ago I was offered a very good 3 year contract with a big perspective for me and in the next moment everything has changed again.  I didn’t know if the new coach would like me as a player and would play me, but never the less the negotiations about my new contract were put on the back burner. But I kept my chin up, trained even harder so I could convince the new coach Konovalov that I am good enough to play. Finally get got trust in me and he put me back in the team and I played well. The negotiations about my new contract started to continue again and I was over the moon. Then the winter break began and I flew home to Berlin. A couple days later; I was enjoying my “small holiday” back at home, I find out (through the internet) that our coach Konovalov got also sacked. And again my way to the top was blocked. I was only 21, but I could very well handle these kinds of situations. The important thing is to think positive and to seek advice from the people who you love and who love you. Therefore I continued calling my parents regularly. Of course it’s always a struggle within yourself, with your head as a battlefield. You start to wonder why it always hits you.  You think you go through hell. But there are many people who are going through much worse things, some of them stop and give up. But I have a rule that says:

If you are going through hell, KEEP GOING.

GERMAN VERSION

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Mein erster Tag als offizieller Spieler von FK Sevastopol verlief wie ueblich. Es gab eine Pressekonferez, um mich als neuen Spieler im Team vorzustellen und ich nahm sofort am Mannschftstrainig teil. Doch der Trainer, der mich unbedingt haben wollte verliess FK Sevastopol zwei Wochen nachdem ich meinen Vertrag unterschrieben hatte. Der neue Trainer kannte mich nicht. So wurde mein Start bei FK Sevastopol wieder zu einem harten Herausforderung in meinem Leben. Ich musste mir sein Vertrauen noch erarbeiten, da ich noch jung und neu im Team war, setzte er zunaechst nicht auf mich. Doch ich trainierte und machte einfach das beste draus. Ein Spieler, der nicht spielt und oft auf der Bank sitzt hat schliesslich keine andere Wahl als hart weiter zu trainieren, jeden Tag dafuer zu nutzen, um sich zu verbessern und den Trainier mit Leistung zu ueberzeugen. Natuerlich kann man auch einen anderen Weg waehlen und den Verein wechseln, wenn man sich nicht mehr wohl fuehlt.

Wenn du unzufrieden mit deinem Rang oder Ort bist, ändern es. Es ist einfach – Du bist kein Baum!

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Das war bei mir jedoch nicht der Fall. Obwohl ich wenig spielte, fuehlte ich mich sehr wohl in der Mannschaft und in Sevastopol. Wenn ich an Sevastopol zurueckdenke, kommen mir nur schoene Bilder in den Sinn. Es ist eine fansastische Stadt, mit einer atemberaubenden Landschaft, die Berge im Ruecken und das Schwarze Meer zu den Fuessen. Dort habe ich viele Freunde fuers Leben gefunden, wie z.B. Ibaimi Bessart, der sozusagen mein Mentor in Sevastopol war. Er lebte dort schon 2 Jahre, hat mir viele Orte gezeigt und war mir bei vielen Dingen behilflich. darueberhinaus war er auch ein beeindruckender Motivator. Immer wenn ich nicht spielte, niedergeschlagen war und mir Gedanken darueber machte, ob ich ueberhaupt spielen oder wann ich endlich meine Chance bekommen werde, sagte er:

Denis , wach auf! Du bist nicht hier…Du lebst diesen Moment gerade nicht, du verpasst ihn…wirf all deine Sorgen weg…denk nicht so viel ueber die Zukunft. Was wird, das wird. Du musst jetzt leben. Das Leben ist kurz und deshalb sollst du keine Zeit verlieren, du musst es geniessen. Wach auf Denis! Manche Menschen leben ein ganzes Leben ohne dabei wirklich wach zu sein…sei nicht einer von ihnen. 

 

Diese Worte brannten sich so sehr in mein Gedaechtnis, dass ich noch heute dannach lebe. Ich genoss mein Leben tatsaechlich. Das hatte auch positiven Einfluss auf meine Leistung, ich arbeitete hart, gab bei jedem Training immer 110 Prozent, obwohl ich nicht spielte. Das verschaffte mir grossen Respekt innerhalb der Mannschaft. Schliesslich begann der Trainer Orbu mich endlich aufzustellen und ich zeigte meine Qualitaeten. Meine harte Arbeit hatte sich bezahlt gemacht und ich spielte in der Ukrainischen Premier Liga, die zu den Top 10 Europas zaehlt. Es gab sogar erste Gespraeche hinsichtlich eines neuen Vertrages. Mir wurde ein neuer 3-Jahres Vertrag angeboten, mit hoeherem Gehalt und hoeheren Praemien.

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Alles hatte sich zum Positiven gewendet. Doch nach ein paar Wochen dann der Schock: wieder ein Trainerwechsel. Der Trainer Obru wurde von Konovalov ersetzt. Und alles ging wieder von vorne los. Gerade noch wurde mir ein sehr ueberzeugender 3-Jahres Vertrag in Aussicht gestellt und im naechsten Moment aendert sich alles. Ich wusste nicht, ob der neue Trainer ebensoviel von mir halten wuerde, die Verhandungen um einen neuen Vertrag wurden zunaechst auf Eis gelegt. Doch ich liess mich nicht entmutigen, trainierte hart weiter und probierte einfach auch den neuen Trainer Konovalov von mir zu ueberzeugen. Er hatte Vertrauen in mich gefasst, stellte mich auf und wieder spielte ich gut. Die Vertragsgespraeche wurden fortgesetzt. Dann begann die Winterpause und ich flog nach Berlin. Zuhause erfahre ich dann durch das Internet, dass der Trainer Konovalov entlassen wird. Wieder wurden mir Steine in den Weg gelegt. Ich war erst 21, doch konnte ich mitlerweile recht gut damit umgehen. Das wichtigste ist, positive zu denken und Rat bei den Menschen zu suchen, die man liebt und die einen lieben. Ich rief somit weiterhin regelmaessig bei meinen Eltern an. Natuerlich ist es immer ein Kampf mit sich selbst, mit dem Kopf als Schlachfeld. Man fragt sich: Warum trifft es mich? Man denkt, man geht durch die Hoelle. Aber es gibt viele, die das gleiche durchmachen, manche stoppen und geben auf. Doch ich habe eine Regel die besagt:

Wenn du durch die Hoelle gehst, geh weiter.