By GEOFF MEHL, Staff Reporter
Insurgence and violence plagued the country of Macedonia in the early 2000s, leaving residents in a search for change. The same was true for 22-year old Damjan (Damien) Stamenkovik of the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s soccer team.
Stamenkovik emigrated with his family from their home town of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, when he was just 12 years old.
“We were in the middle of a war with Albania,” Stamenkovik said. “We came here for a better opportunity and a better life.I still go back on vacations but this is my home now.”
Shortly after arriving in America, Stamenkovik used his talents as a soccer player to create an opportunity for himself.
“I’ve been playing soccer ever since I could walk” he said.
Stamenkovik, a talented midfielder, played in the premier youth soccer league for Vardar before making his college debut at Schoolcraft Community College in Livonia. After finishing his two year career at Schoolcraft, he had a difficult decision to make. Receiving offers from Division 2 and 3 schools, he was enticed by a Division 1 scholarship.
“I wanted an opportunity for a scholarship and I had friends who played here [UM-Dearborn],” Stamenkovik said.
As a player, Stamenkovik is currently leading the Wolverines in goals and thinks his on-the-field abilities reflect that.
“I am a technical player….when I have the ball in space I can create scoring [chances].”
Teammates and coaches alike have noticed his development as a player and according to coach Mike Hatfield; Stamenkovik is a leader on the team.
“He’s like another coach on the field. He understands the speed of the game and he’s helping the younger guys close the gap,” said Hatfield.
Stamenkovik is in his senior year at UM-Dearborn and has seen his team evolve a great deal over just one year. The Wolverines went a lowly 1-12-1 in 2012, but have been successful early in the 2013 season.
“We can make the playoffs this year. It’s one of our goals,” Stamenkovik said. “We’ve got more depth this year, but it’s going to be tough.”
While the season progresses and Stamenkovik gets closer to graduation, his goals are similar to the average student.
“I just want to get a good job,” he said jokingly.
Being a student athlete isn’t easy these days, but Stamenkovik has embraced the opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps and earn an electrical engineering degree.
“It’s hard and exhausting but it’s manageable,” he said.
Nobody said it would be easy, but from war torn Macedonia to America and the UM-Dearborn men’s soccer team, Damjan Stamenkovik has made a success of his journey thus far.