ST. CHARLES – On the brink of war, violent outbreaks left the streets of Yugoslavia in ruins.
But Alen Osmanovic had already forged a love on those very streets that upturned pavement couldn’t crack – a love for the sport of soccer.
“Soccer was all there was where I grew up,” Osmanovic said. “Everybody played soccer. All the kids got together in the streets to play, without coaches or anything like that.”
Osmanovic and his family fled to Germany when he turned 11 because the violence became too much. Germany was more than a place of refuge for Osmanovic, a new addition to the Tri-Cities Soccer Association Premier coaching staff. It was his first glimpse at organized soccer.
“I had developed a nice dribbling game in [present-day Bosnia],” Osmanovic said. “The organized game was so different. You had to learn your defensive responsibilities and play as a team. It was totally different. All I knew is that the sport fascinated me. I wanted to train and play every day. I couldn’t get enough of it.”
However, not even Osmanovic could have dreamed the career that would ensue.
“I grew up playing soccer and I watched it religiously with my grandfather,” Osmanovic said. “He loved the game so much. He was always teaching me about it and the players. I remember watching my first World Cup being in 1986, I was only 6 years old, but I was mesmerized. Luckily, I had some talent and skill for the game.”
Osmanovic has since endured a fruitful professional soccer career, including stints playing for FC 08 Homburg, where he won a Saarland Cup alongside teammate Miroslav Klose, as well as playing professionally in the United States as a member of the Milwaukee Wave and the Chicago Storm indoor teams.
While many highlights clutter Osmanovic’s soccer resumé, he calls his “greatest” achievement graduating from Wisconsin-Parkside while under a soccer scholarship.
Osmanovic admits he is equally as excited for his most recent stop, TCSA.
“Every time I step on the soccer field and see the kids playing, my own memories come through my head,” Osmanovic said. “It makes me feel childlike and enthusiastic. You want to teach those kids what you have already learned later in life. I want the kids to have as many advantages as they possibly could have.”
TCSA director of human relations Jeff Durocher said Osmanovic’s youth coaching experience – dating to 2001 – made Osmanovic a very attractive hire.
“A couple things that jumped out at me was the he played at virtually every level,” Durocher said. “He played youth, college and pro but he really has good experience on the coaching side of the game. He is a really nice addition.”
With TCSA’s Premier program entering its fourth year, Durocher said Osmanovic will play a key role in the continued expansion of the program.
“In the Premier program’s first year, there were five teams. In the second year there was 15, and in the third 22. This year, we expect nearly 30 teams,” Durocher said. “I think [Osmanovic] will help us grow and even challenge our program to grow further. The future looks very bright.”
The excitement surrounding TCSA’s future is mutual.
“I don’t want to sound cocky or anything like that, but I would like to tell the other clubs in the Tri-Cities area to watch out,” Osmanovic said. “Our Premier program’s just stacked with great coaches. Once all these kids have gone through the program, there are going to be college coaches and scouts knocking on our doors like crazy. For me, I feel like I always think, ‘If I only knew that back then.’ I want to share my lessons to these kids.”