Veselinović keeps eyes on Serbia as he continues his ascent

Ranko CanChamp

Serbia has played in four of the past five FIFA World Cup tournaments.

They are quietly consistent.

That description could also be used on the ‘Caps resident Serbian, centre back Ranko Veselinović.

At only 23-year-old, he has already played three seasons in Vancouver, and this past year he became one of the first names on the team sheet.

The idol

The 2010 World Cup brought a famous 1-0 group stage win for Serbia – in their first tournament since separating from Montenegro – over perennial contenders Germany, who would go on to reach the semifinals.

Veselinović was 11-years-old at the time.

But for him, like many of his peers, he had his eyes on one Serbian national team player above the rest.

“Nemanja Vidić, that was my idol growing up. All centre backs in Serbia aim to be like him. A legend of Manchester United, a legend of the Serbian national team.”

Veselinović has himself represented his country at every age from U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, and U-21.

He came through the academy of Serbian club FK Vojvodina, and in 2016 he joined their first team as a 17-year-old. By the time he departed in 2020, he had captained the team as a 19-year-old.

But in 2020, he would begin a new adventure. Just not quite the way he expected.

The pandemic

“That feels like a different life.”

When Veselinović came to Vancouver, he was only 20-years-old.

“It was a really big year for me. I came here and after three days, everything stopped for three months because of COVID.”

When he finally hit the pitch, it wasn’t in Vancouver. He made his debut on July 15 at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida.

“I was younger back then and I didn’t know what to expect from this league.”

He would make a total of 18 MLS regular season appearances in his first season, 27 in his second year, and this season he led the team with 31.

“I think I’ve matured a lot,” tells Veselinović. “When I came here I was still a kid”

The dream

In January of 2021, Veselinović made his debut for Serbia’s senior national team against the Dominican Republic.

It is his lone appearance so far.

“It’s tough because we have a good team, a lot of good players. I can’t wait to watch this World Cup.”

With continued maturation, could that Serbian national team one day see Veselinović return?

“In the future, why not? That would be the dream.”