The Unorthodox American Dream: Slavisa Ubiparipovic’s Journey
Slavisa Ubiparipovic’s road to success in America was nearly derailed before it began. While life was difficult as a stranger in a strange land, explosions and gunshots wreaked havoc upon the only other home he knew.
Born in Zenica, Bosnia, Slav’s childhood was far from carefree and cheerful. When he was five years old, the Bosnian War- a conflict that resulted in the death of over 100,000 individuals- -began.
While his family had to struggled to get by, Slav matured and gained an appreciation for each day because of his exposure to the conflict.
“Growing up during the war is something that is always going to stick with me and something that actually made me grow up faster than most kids,” Said Slav “You have to do things to survive. Being around my parents who were trying to get a bite for us to eat and learning from them, I saw how hard it was to get food on the table and it made me realize that life is precious, and life is short so you have to enjoy it while you can.”
Exhausted by the constant threat posed by the war, the Ubiparipovic family fled Bosnia and came to America. While the move was initially met with approval from Slav, the emotional toll of leaving home soon began to take effect.
“At first it was exciting to leave the war and come to a better life. But at the same time, it was depressing because you are leaving your friends, your family, and everyone else behind.”
Before his arrival in the United States, the family envisioned scenes from Hollywood awaiting them in their new home. However, a rude awakening took place upon settling in Cleveland, Ohio. The family went through a relocation agency to assist in the resettlement process who suggested they would have the most success in Cleveland, because of a cousin who had previously settled in the city.
“The only thing we knew about America was from the movies and from the cartoons so when they told us we were going to Cleveland, we didn’t even know where it was. When we first landed, we realized that America was not what we saw in the movies. We lived downtown, and just like any other city downtown is a scary area, especially for people coming to America without any English skills. But we survived.”
The family’s adjustment to the United States was not an easy transition, causing them to consider leaving altogether.
“My parents started working out in the suburbs and we started to get adjusted to it but at first, my dad told us “I’m giving up. Pack our bags. Because we’re not staying here if this is what America is about.”
After settling in America, what had been an escape for Slav in Bosnia soon became a respite for him in his newfound home. The game of soccer allowed him to make friends and find a path to success. Slav went on to be named the Ohio State Player of the Year during his senior year in high school in Mentor, OH, and broke the school’s all-time points record.
“Soccer in Europe is a lot different than soccer here. As a kid, I had trained twice a day since I was seven years old. We played soccer for six or seven hours a day out on the streets, parking lots, grass, or wherever we could find space. Soccer is how you get friends, how you meet people, and how you get to travel. I fell in love with the game.”
Riding his passion for soccer all the way to a professional career, Slav has found incredible success with Utica City FC. He leads the team in points (23) and goals (13) while also providing a calming presence within the locker room.
Because of the club’s initial success, Slav envisions a bright future for the team at the Adirondack Bank Center.
“So far it has been great. Everything has been flowing smoothly. We’re winning games on the road. We’re winning games at home. We’re giving the crowd what they want to see,” He went on to say, “I have no clue what’s going to happen this season, but I truly believe that we can grow the team to be even bigger than it is now.”
In a city where the American dream has been fulfilled by so many through blood, sweat, and tears, Slav continues to work towards the dream that has been engrained in his mind from a young age. A dream that was almost never meant to be.
Slav and the rest of UCFC will be back in action on Sunday, January 27th at 2:00 P.M. as they take on the Orlando SeaWolves. Tickets are still available at www.empirestatetix.com.