Image: Michael Dodge
The Preston Lions have acquired the services of club legend and former Socceroos defender Sasa Ognenovski for this week’s derby clash against Sydenham Park.
Lou Acevski’s men secured a 3-0 win on Sunday against the Essendon Royals having celebrated the club’s 70th anniversary with a gala dinner at the Crown Palladium the night before.
38-year-old Ognenovski attended and currently represents the club in an ambassadorial capacity having made 114 league appearances for Lions across two separate stints at BT Connor Reserve.
His last professional outing came in November 2014 during Sydney FC’s goalless draw against Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium, with the veteran’s A-League career coming to an end that night following a season-ending thigh injury.
A Preston junior from the age of 7, he progressed through the ranks at Makedonia before ultimately making his senior debut as a teenager during the 1997 VPL campaign.
In 2000 he moved to the NSL by joining the Melbourne Knights as he spent the next two years of his career at Somers Street Stadium before experiencing a short stint in Greece with Panachaiki.
Upon his return to Australia, he re-joined Preston during the 2003 VPL season before moving to Fawkner-Whittlesea in 2005 having captained the Lions in his second spell at the club.
It was around that stage of his football career that he contemplated giving the game up and playing AFL with his mates after missing the initial cut for the A-League.
However the Brisbane (then Queensland) Roar signed the then 27-year-old centre-back in 2006 with the uncompromising Ognenovski becoming one of the club’s best players over the course of the next two seasons under Miron Bleiberg and Frank Farina respectively.
In 2008 he joined Adelaide United and immediately helped the Reds reach the 2008 Asian Champions League as well as being a part of Aurelio Vidmar’s Club World Cup and A-League Grand Final squads.
Voted that year as the second best footballer from Macedonia behind future Champions League winner Goran Pandev, Ognenovski secured a lucrative transfer to K-League side Seongnam Ilhwa.
He captained the Korean club to Asian Champions League success in 2010 as he netted the opener in the final against Zob Ahan and was subsequently awarded Man of the Match and ACL MVP honours.
Having been overlooked by Pim Verbeek in addition to flirtations with the Macedonian national team, Ognenovski was finally rewarded for his form after being called up by Holger Osieck to represent the Socceroos in a friendly match against Egypt in November 2010.
His maiden national team appearance in Cairo came at the age of 31 as he played an instrumental role in Australia’s Asian Cup campaign in 2011, scoring in the 6-0 semi-final rout of Uzbekistan.
He also made his second appearance at the Club World Cup and played against the likes of Pandev, Javier Zanetti, Dejan Stankovic, Diego Milito, Esteban Cambiasso, Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o at the tournament as well as scoring in Chunma’s 4-1 triumph over host side Al-Wahda of the UAE.
In 2012 he returned to the Gulf by joining Qatari side Umm-Salal and spent the next two years of his career in Doha before returning to join Sydney FC in January 2014.
In total he made 78 A-League appearances, scoring 7 goals while also earning 22 Socceroos caps in a three-year period and is undoubtedly one of the best players to ever play for Preston.
His guest appearances come at a time of resurgence for the Lions who have also attracted ex-A-League players Robert Stambolziev and Aryn Williams to the club this term.