Debrecen: It could all have been so different for Vukasin Poleksic. Six years ago, the Debrecen goalkeeper was given the chance to fulfil his dream of playing in the Premier League by joining Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth, who went on to win the FA Cup that season.
Instead, Poleksic chose to stay in Hungary and experience the Champions League. On Wednesday, at Debrecen, he admitted he will regret that decision forever.
Poleksic has achieved notoriety as the focus of the match-fixing allegations that struck Britain this week. Uefa banned him for two years in 2010 for failing to report a telephone call in which a criminal gang offered to pay him to help fix Champions League matches in 2009 against Fiorentina and Liverpool.
The 30 year-old insisted he had nothing to hide and said he did not take the money, explaining why he did not go to the authorities.
“In 2007-08, I had some chance to go to Portsmouth,” Poleksic said. “I had some very big offer to go but I said, ‘No, I’ll stay to play in the Champions League and maybe next summer go’.
“It was a mistake because I got this punishment. Maybe, if I had gone there, who knows?”
Had he gone, Poleksic would have never received that fateful phone call as Debrecen prepared for their first season in the Champions League group stage. Instead of reporting it to the authorities, he told his wife Kristina. “She said, ‘You can’t go to anybody with this, you don’t have proof’.”
Poleksic admitted he was naive, not only because he did nothing, but also he was honest when Uefa called after German police accidentally uncovered the scandal. “I didn’t want to lie,” he said. “Maybe if I said nobody called me, they would’ve given me nothing, if I said: ‘Nobody called me, you don’t have proof, f--- off’. But I was a little bit naive.”
Despite there being no evidence to suggest he took the money, Poleksic’s admission meant that his attempts to fight his ban — he took the case all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport — were doomed to fail.
“For the first one or two months, I was in shock,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe that this happened to me. You can’t sleep. I lost everything.”
The Montenegro international added: “I was thinking of leaving football. Yes, because if you do nothing bad and they accuse you and they put you in every newspaper in my country, people read it and look at you strangely, like some criminal.”
His family convinced Poleksic not to give up hope. “I trained hard every day and waited for the day that my ban finished. It was a very long period but I made it.”
Poleksic’s suspension expired last summer but he has struggled to regain his place at the club and is second choice for his country.