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Nikola Vucevic : "In the NBA, they don't understand my passion"

Published on 14 May 2020 at 7:00 AM
Nikola Vucevic : « En NBA, ils ne comprennent pas ma passion »
Born in Montenegro, and NBA basketball player and from a family where the white ball was dethroned by an orange one, not much seemed to indicate him becoming one of the biggest fans of Olympique Lyonnais. However, Nikola Vucevic does not miss any news of the club, even on the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States where he travels with his team, the Orlando Magic. He has also stopped playing because of an outstanding season, the 2.13m center did not hesitate when the opportunity arose to speak with passion of his love for OL, Juninho, Tony Parker or even his visit to Groupama Stadium in 2016.

Nikola, where does your attachment to OL come from?

I grew up in Belgium between the ages of 2 and 12. I lived in the Walloon region, which is French speaking. Many television channels are French. This allowed me to follow Ligue 1. I watched a lot of matches. I was a big Juninho fan so I was for OL. It was the time when the club was champion. It all started like this and since then I have remained a supporter. I started following football intensively in the early 2000s and really got into it, choosing my favorite teams. I am a fan of Red Star Belgrade because my father loved this club. As for the other teams that I support, it usually started with a player. And even when the player retired, I stuck with the same club. Football is the number one sport in Belgium but it was not so in my family. It was basketball, my father was a professional. I liked soccer but I was not very good. So, I also chose basketball.


What is your greatest memory of the club since you started following OL?

When I visited Groupama Stadium. It was against Monaco in the 2015-16 season, a 6-1 victory. It was the first match I watched at the stadium. It was a big game, important to qualify for the Champions League. The whole experience was magnificent. I was with one of my friends. We still talk about it often. It was wonderful to come to Lyon, the stadium is very beautiful. It was a pleasure to meet the players, to go on the pitch. It was an incredible experience. I thank the club. Experiencing the moment at the stadium is always different than watching on television.

A particular match to highlight?

Not a match but a season. I remember the 2014-15 season when we were in first and we were overtaken by PSG. It’s a bad memory that still hurts. We had a young team, which played well. We didn't expect such a season. We were close to the title.


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Which player impressed you the most?

Juninho. There is not much to say. His qualities speak for themselves. He’s a great player. He is the iconic player of that great period. He helped OL change its approach. His free kicks will be legendary forever. I really like the midfielders that are in this mold,  very technical, who play for the team. He was like that and I liked him from the start. He had something. With his presence, he helped the team to play better. I would like to meet him one day if possible.


Do you have a dream for OL?

The Champions League is everyone's dream. If we manage to win Ligue 1, it would also be great. Getting ahead of Paris, who have such financial means, would really please me. OL trains very good young players. I like this kind of club that builds on their academy. There is a real culture, an identity and people appreciate it. OL does it very very well, like Ajax.

With your career, which makes you travel very often and suffer from jet lag, is it difficult to follow OL?

It's hard to watch the matches live. In the United States, there is no broadcast of the French championship. I look at the results and summaries after each match. I read the newspapers too. I have to do this. I was able to watch OL - Juventus at least. It's a shame that there aren't more matches broadcast here.


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In your sport and the locker room, do they know that you are a supporter of OL and if so, how does it translate?

Not many people follow football in the NBA. It’s not very popular. They don't really understand my passion for soccer. Too bad. There is my French teammate, Evan Fournier, who knows a little. But he does not understand why I am a supporter of OL and a French club when I have nothing to do with France and Lyon. I have explained it to him. He is always bothering me when I talk about it, he makes little jokes. With my childhood friends from Montenegro, we talk about it very often. They know I'm a fan of OL.


What is your view on the role of Tony Parker at OL?

Tony is one of the biggest names in the history of French sport. It’s great for OL to have someone like him. He's already doing great things with ASVEL. Collaboration is a bonus for OL. He can help the club in a different way. He will be able to develop the image of OL in the United States, even if people do not understand football as much here. They have their own sport. It starts with a little but it will take time.


How have you been experiencing this confinement in the United States?

It was a bit difficult at first. It was a shock because we are always traveling, moving from one city to another for games. Suddenly, you have to stay at home. There is also something positive. I finally managed to spend time with my family. I have a 17 month old son and I didn't see him as often because of the road trips. It felt good to take care of him. It’s a very difficult situation all over the world but you always have to try to get something positive out of it. I’m still training to stay in shape if the season resumes, as we hope it does. Nothing has been decided yet. There are many questions left to be answered.


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