Zenon Caravella: Swept away by Gold Coast excitement
From Cairns to Sydney to New Zealand to Holland and back again, Zenon Caravella has had an interesting football journey. Born in Cairns in 1983, Caravella began his professional football career with Sydney Olympic in the National Soccer League where he became an important midfielder, appearing more than 40 times in a Sydney shirt before a brief stint with the Rockdale City Suns.
Caravella returned to Olympic for the 2004/2005 season, then was drafted into the inaugural New Zealand Knights squad in the first season of the A-League.
During that 2005/2006 season, the 25-year old was courted by Dutch club FC Omniworld, where he played for two seasons in Holland's Eerste Divisie and attracted interest from other Dutch clubs as well as Italian clubs in the Serie B.
tribalfootball.com caught up with Zenon to find out more about his football experiences in Europe and why he has returned to the A-League.
"Having been overseas the last two years, I actually didn't plan on returning to the A-League as I was contemplating other opportunities in Europe," he said.
"But after returning to Australia in the off-season to get married, (Gold Coast coach) Miron (Bleiberg) called and we spoke about a possible return for me to play for a new team in the A-League based in the Gold Coast which seemed like an exciting move and being originally a Queenslander, I would be back at home.
"So it was the whole package that attracted me and after two years in cold Holland, I was in need of a good dose of Vitamin E," Caravella said.
The chance to live and play in the place he grew up was enticing for Zenon and he is excited to be a part of a new chapter in Australian football with Gold Coast United, who are creating a buzz throughout the country.
"They have a great ambition to be a dominant force in the A-League from the first year, and they plan to stay that way in seasons to come.
"Their campaign has shown that they are motivated to attract players by offering top class facilities, and the bonus of living in the Gold Coast is the icing on the cake.
"I am just like everyone else at the moment, just hearing things on TV and in the paper but from what I can see so far, things are looking very exciting.
"It seems like there are a few big players wanting to get involved, which goes to show the appeal that Gold Coast United have."
After two seasons playing football in Holland, Zenon witnessed Europeans change their thoughts quickly on Australian football after the Socceroos' performance in the 2006 World Cup.
"I arrived in Holland just before the World Cup, and its amazing the difference in attitude the Europeans had towards Australian football before and after.
"Australia's performance really made a difference for us as a football nation, and since then I had a few players overseas express interest in Australian football - but not just for the standard, but the appeal of Australia as a place to live."
Along the way, Zenon made great friendships and worked with some of the biggest names in Dutch football, an experience that he believes has made him a better person and player today.
"Yannis and I became great friends due to my time at Omniworld and he has since become the Assistant Coach of Panathainaikos.
"I would say the biggest support base for me was Bert Konteman, who is an ex-Dutch international, training to be a coach at the club.
"He really believed in my ability and helped me grow as a player.
"There was also my trainer, Peter Van Vossen, who is another very experienced ex-Dutch international, who was tough but had some great knowledge of the game to pass on.
"I learnt a great deal from all these people, who have played and been successful at the highest level. I am very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to have had that experience."
Despite being related to former Socceroos coach and current Queensland Roar boss Frank Farina, Zenon said he was never approached by the club - but doesn't see it as a bad thing. The major issue was making sure that if he did decide to return to Australia that it be for the right reasons.
"From the beginning of the year, I had a few people contact me about playing in the A-League this season, but at that time, I was always set on staying in Europe.
"It wasn't until speaking with Miron that I seriously contemplated staying, and I had a great feeling about the whole situation, which gave me motivation and desire to continue my career in Australia.
"As far as the Queensland Roar is concerned, I think any coach at this level would ensure that if they express interest in a player, it's on merit, and not because they are related."
This leads to a possible rivalry with the Brisbane-based club where mention of Gold Coast United is continuing to grow legs.
"I've seen the stadium and it has a great atmosphere with some top class facilities.
"As for the feeling, we are living in Brisbane at the moment and people are talking about Gold Coast United with such excitement that I can only imagine how it is in the Gold Coast.
"It will definitely make for a great derby next season."
Looking ahead to season 2009/2010, Zenon is excited about the possibility of teaming up with a Socceroo star in the United midfield, where he is more than likely to provide an attacking midfield prowess which is necessary in the A-League today.
"Miron knows how I play, so as far as what my position will be, it really depends on what formation we are going to play.
"But more than likely I will be somewhere in the midfield, in an attacking role.
"If it does happen to work out that Jason Culina comes to Gold Coast, I would love to play alongside someone of his experience. As he typically plays a holding role while I play more attacking, I think we would compliment each other in the midfield."