Know Your Strikers: Oka Nikolov
After fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing in the United States when he signed with the Philadelphia Union for the 2013 MLS season, goalkeeper Oka Nikolov opted to remain in America and on January 28th joined the Fort Lauderdale Strikers for the 2014 NASL Spring season.
The experienced keeper, who turned 40 on Sunday, effectively played what most would consider a lifetime with one club in his native Germany. Nikolov joined Eintracht Frankfurt as a youth in 1991 and became the first-choice goalkeeper in 1996. He spent 19 years as a professional with the club, making 414 appearances, including 229 in the Bundesliga, the top flight of German soccer.
For the Strikers, Nikolov has settled in quickly. He has started all seven games and has posted two clean sheets so far in this Spring campaign. Discover more about Oka in the following Q&A feature:
1. Did you have to sacrifice having fun while you were growing up in order to be dedicated in your pursuit of becoming a professional soccer player?
Oka Nikolov: I always wanted to be a soccer player. You have goals and I had goals. One of my goals was too become a soccer player. I never really thought about other professions.
2. What do you feel is one memory or achievement that stands out in your soccer career?
ON: I take the good times and the bad times, I had special games, some important games, but a 20-year career is what I’m most proud of. My time at Eintracht Frankfurt, but also my time in the U.S. with Philadelphia. It was a great experience for me to learn different cultures, and how other coaches approach the game.
3. What is your favorite hobby outside of your soccer career; what do you like to do in your leisure/free time?
ON: Tennis and golf are a couple of activities that I like besides soccer.
4. Which professional soccer league in the world do you consider to be the strongest and most competitive league at this time?
ON: I think overall a few European leagues are close, but at the moment the Premier League and the Bundesliga are the strongest leagues.
5. Do you have a favorite soccer club, or one that you may have cheered for while growing up?
ON: I hope all my Frankfurt fans will not mind too much, but when I grew up I was in Cologne and cheered for FC Köln. I liked the players there like Pierre Littbarski, Thomas Hassler, Bodo Illgner, the goalkeeper, who I always liked.
6. Who do you consider to be the best soccer player in the world right now?
ON: Cristiano Ronaldo is amazing at the moment, how easy he scores and how fast he is.
7. What music do you listen to on your iPod; do you have a favorite music style?
ON: I like a variety of genre, except heavy metal and hard rock.
8. What is your favorite sport besides soccer?
ON: I like to watch basketball a lot. It’s very exciting.
9. Who do you think will win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?
ON: This is a hard question to answer because it comes down to one match and there is some luck involved, but I think Germany has a good chance with their young team.
10. What is your favorite food since you came to South Florida?
ON: I discovered a lot of new foods, but one favorite that I like is Chop Chop.
11. Who has had an impact on you in your soccer career?
ON: My first coach when I was a boy, Albert Luft, at SG Sandbach has had a positive impact in my soccer life.