Robert’s rare road - June 14 2014

Robert’s rare road

June 14 2014

Shepparton News

Robert Enes represented Australia at the senior level seven times, but the game he remembers most is one he didn’t play in.

It was 1997 at a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground against Iran and qualification for the 1998 World Cup in France was on the line.

Some 85 000 people packed into the MCG after Socceroos coach Terry Venables had led Australia to a 1-1 draw in Tehran, for what should have been the Socceroos’ greatest moment.

Goals from Harry Kewell and Aurelio Vidmar had the Socceroos 2-0 up after 48 minutes and Australia was cruising.

Serial pest Peter Hore caused a halt in play when he cut Iran’s goal net and Kewell was controversially booked and suddenly, the momentum shifted.

Iran scored twice in four minutes and the dream was over — Australia was out on away goals after the tie was drawn 3-3.

‘‘I was in the stands that night, but I was in the national squad,’’ Enes recalled.

‘‘To be a part of the team at that time was huge. I’ll never forget walking into the dressing room and looking at guys like (Mark) Bosnich, (Ned) Zelic and (Paul) Okon.

‘‘It was their last chance at a World Cup.’’

Enes was 22 at the time, but little did he know it would be his last chance as well.

Star in making

It was clear early on Enes was destined for big things in soccer.

By 15; he already had a North East Soccer League senior premiership with Shepparton United, had represented Victoria and was set to move to Melbourne.

‘‘I went through the juniors at United and moved to Melbourne to play with Preston Macedonia,’’ Enes said.

‘‘I went to school at Parade College while I was playing there and I was lucky enough to be selected to go the (Australian Institute of Sport) in Canberra.

‘‘That was a full-time program. It was pretty revolutionary back then because we didn’t have academies.’’

Enes was a Socceroo four years later.

His quick rise did not surprise anyone that had seen him play for the Blues, especially his premiership teammate Jimmy Kalafatis.

‘‘Even at 15, he was just in another class,’’ Kalafatis said.

‘‘It’s very rare you see someone with his qualities at such a young age. He was calm on the ball and he was very strong for his age. He just had this presence. It wasn’t a surprise to see him go and do what he did.’’

Enes was in good company in Canberra, where he studied and played along Socceroo greats Mark Viduka, Josip Skoko and Lucas Neill.

Road to Socceroos

Enes remains the last senior Socceroo Shepparton has produced and for him, there was no greater honour.

‘‘It was just great to be a part of the set up,’’ Enes said.

‘‘I went right through the youth set up, I played in the under-20 World Cup (in 1995) and then the Olympics the next year and then into the senior national team.’’

The 1995 under-20 World Cup was in Doha, Qatar and Enes, who was the team’s vice-captain, made a quick impression.

He scored from the penalty spot in Australia’s opening 2-0 win against Costa Rica and helped a star-studded Australia side reach the quarter-finals, where it was eliminated by Portugal 2-1 after extra-time.

Enes represented Australia at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and featured in a 2-1 win against Saudi Arabia, eventually progressing to the senior side as part of the qualifying campaign for France ‘98.

During that time, Enes picked up a National Soccer League minor premiership — then the top-flight of soccer in the country — with Sydney United, where he played with Zeljko Kalac, Ante Milicic and David Zdrilla under coach Branko Culina.

Overseas interest

Venables would take Enes, as well as fellow Socceroos John Aloisi and Craig Foster across to Portsmouth, who was playing in the second division of English soccer at the time shortly after the ‘98 heartbreak.

‘‘It went a lot of the advice I was getting at the time as a lot of people told me I should go to the continent and try a Holland or a Germany,’’ Enes said.

‘‘Venables had bought Portsmouth for next to nothing, and he took us across, but he left, the manager got sacked and it all went pear-shaped.

‘‘It set me back a bit and injuries didn’t help at all, and I came back to Australia to play for Northern Spirit while I was trying to get fit again.’’

Enes suffered a ruptured Achilles, a number of calf injuries that limited him to just five senior appearances in 18 months at Portsmouth.

He would make 82 NSL appearances for Northern Spirit between 1998 and 2002, and another 17 for Marconi Stallions between 2002 and 2003, before retiring at the age of 28.

It was a cruel end to a career that promised so much, but Enes, a real estate agent in Melbourne, has no regrets.

‘‘It’s hard to look back, but there are so many good memories,’’ Enes said.

‘‘I still see some of the boys from time to time. I see the likes of Josip Skoko, Mark Rudan, John Aloisi and Clint Bolton and Mark Viduka is in and out as well.

‘‘It’s great to see how far the professional game has come here since my time though. It would have been great to have the platforms the guys today have.”


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