Hamilton-raised footballer signs with Red Star Belgrade

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Published July 19, 2022 at 5:48 pm

Stefan Mitrovic, who was playing competitive soccer games at a high school field in Stoney Creek just three years ago, has signed with one of the best biggest clubs and southeast Europe.

Red Star Belgrade, of course, may need no introduction to the city’s footy followers, since Hamilton native Milan Borjan, the goalkeeper who was the backbone of Canada’s 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, also plays there. Red Star will now have two Hamilton-area talents with Mitrovic, a winger who also plays as an attacking midfielder, signing on just weeks prior to his 20th birthday on Aug. 15.

“Amazing day in Belgrade today, Stef signing for a European Giant,” the footballer’s father, Ivan Mitrovic, wrote in a social media post.

The club paid a roughly $660,000 release fee to Radnički Niš to get Stefan Mitrovic out of his contract with Radnički Niš, whom he signed with in 2019. Radnički was a solid fourth in the the SuperLiga last season, but Red Star are league champions in seven of the last nine seasons and will be representing the nation in the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League. They have have been either the league champion or runner-up in 15-of-16 seasons since the Serbian top flight adopted its current format.

The five-foot-11½ Mitrovic moved to Canada with his family when he was just six years old, after being born in Krusevac, Serbia. In his formative years, he played for teams such as Hamilton Serbians, Givova Academy, Hamilton United, Empire Niagara Academy and the Toronto FC youth academy team.

Mitrovic was only 16 years old in the fall of 2018 when the then newly formed Canadian Premier League, which includes Forge FC of Hamilton, was holding open tryouts. He was not signed by a team. He played for Hamilton City SC in ’18 and ’19, scoring seven goals in 12 appearances for the Canadian Soccer League club, before opting to try his luck in his birth nation.

The prospect of Mitrovic teaming up with Borjan has fuelled speculation on Canadian soccer Twitter that he might considering becoming a Canadian international. Under FIFA rules, a player does not have to commit to representing a nation until they play for its senior team. Mitrovic, though, has already played for Serbia on its under-20 and -21 teams, and scored two goals last summer with the U21 squad.

(Cover photo via @crvenazvezdafk.)

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