"It was a no-brainer to join the Phoenix" - Matthew Bozinovski
At 195cm, Matthew Bozinovski is one of the tallest players in the A-League Men.
He will be looking to use his physicality and international experience when defending against the competition's best strikers this season.
Bozinovski joined Wellington Phoenix on loan for the season from Melbourne Victory, and he's aiming to help the Nix make the finals and gain valuable experience in a professional football environment.
Front Page Football caught up with the 20-year-old to discuss his football journey, his time in North Macedonia's U21 setup, and his goals with the Phoenix this season.
"I started playing when I was five years old," Bozinovski said.
"I grew up watching my uncle play in the Victorian Premier League, and he encouraged me to become a professional. I also looked up to players such as Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand."
Bozinovski's football career started at local clubs in Victoria before he joined NPL Victoria side Hume City.
"I was about 15 when I started training with the seniors at Hume," he said.
"I made my senior debut at 16. I gained a lot from my time at Hume City and had a good time there."
Bozinovski pointed out how playing senior NPL football at an early age helped him develop his skills.
"It's a big step-up [from U18s and U20s], especially in the NPL, there's a lot of players who have played in decent levels before. It was very beneficial for me," Bozinovski said.
"I was never afraid to play against the seniors. I had a few nerves, but I set out some personal expectations to help me perform at that level."
Bozinovski joined Melbourne Victory in 2018, having played over 30 matches for their reserves side in the Football Victoria NPL3 competition.
In hotel quarantine in Australia after returning from international duty, Bozinovski received a phone call from Wellington Phoenix manager Ufuk Talay.
"I had a conversation with Ufuk Talay when I was in hotel quarantine, coming back from Europe," he said.
"He spoke to me over the phone and was very positive. He gave me an outlook on what role he sees me with [at] the Nix.
"I've always wanted to play in the A-League Men's competition, so it was a no-brainer to join the Nix, especially under Ufuk, who is a really good coach.
"He offers a lot of energy; he's been good to me in my short stay so far. He's always encouraging me to push harder and always offers advice."
Phoenix fans can look forward to watching Bozinovski and the rest of the playing group heading into the 2021/22 season.
"It's going to be an exciting season," Bozinovski said.
"We've played three pre-season games against A-League [Men] opposition, and the games have been positive. All the boys are fit and ready for the season ahead; I think we're going to have a pretty successful season."
Nix fans should be excited to watch Bozinovski put his body on the line and compete for aerial duels against some of the league's most formidable strikers.
"I like to throw myself in challenges, and competing in the air is my biggest asset," he said.
"I like to get on the ball as much as I can and find pockets of space with the ball."
NORTH MACEDONIA U21
In February 2021, Bozinovski was selected to represent North Macedonia U21s in the Euro U21 qualifiers in France.
Melbourne City's Stefan Colakovski also took part.
Bozinovski played two games, both 90 minutes long.
He featured in a 3-0 loss to France and a 0-0 draw with Serbia.
Bozinovski was very grateful to represent his country of heritage, despite the results not going in their favour.
"Playing in those games was an extremely proud moment not only for myself but for my family," he said. "[My family] are proud North Macedonians, and it was an amazing experience."
During those two games, Bozinovski faced off against Real Madrid star Eduardo Camavinga, Nice striker Amine Gouiri, and Monaco attacker Sofiane Diop.
"To play against the calibre of players such as Eduardo Camavinga was an amazing experience and gave me a lot of confidence knowing that I could compete at such a high level of football," Bozinovski said.
"It was an unforgettable experience, playing in Europe against those players, and without falling too out of place gave me a lot of confidence coming back to Australia."
Bozinovski also highlighted the differences between Australian and North Macedonian football.
"It's a much different style of play," he said.
"Australian football is more physical, whereas, in North Macedonia, the players are technically talented.
"It's not as physical as in Australia; they try and earn more fouls than what you see in Australia."
Wellington takes on Macarthur at McDonald Jones Stadium in an A-League Men's doubleheader later today, with the fixture relocated due to the dreadful Campbelltown Stadium pitch.