Where Nenad Gorgiev grew up, in Macedonia, a small country north of Greece and sandwiched between Albania and Bulgaria in eastern Europe, soccer is life. Kids start kicking the ball around as soon as they can walk and typically begin playing the game in an organized fashion at around 5 years old. With so much experience — not only in Europe, but coaching club teams in the United States since 2006, Gorgiev believes he can be the guy who turns around the Holy Spirit boys soccer program.

He’ll get the chance to prove himself beginning this summer, when the Spartans begin preparing for the 2021 season, which begins in September. Athletic Director Steve Normane announced the hire earlier this month, along with new girls lacrosse coach Kylie Primeau, daughter of former Philadelphia Flyers great Keith Primeau.

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“My dad was my mentor and my coach, he played professional soccer and was a coach, so I started kicking the ball when I was 5 years old. I played professionally; my first pro game was when I was 17,” said Gorgiev, who runs a soccer training facility in Egg Harbor Township. “Then in 2006, I moved to the United States for a better opportunity. I had traveled in Europe in Italy, Switzerland, France, but when I was in college they had a program for student exchange and I wanted to come and see what it was like here. When I came here, I founded a training company and I’ve been working at that ever since. I have my own training academy based out of Egg Harbor Township.

“We didn’t have that many options when I was growing up, in terms of sports, and the most affordable one was soccer,” he explained. “You have a soccer ball, you go outside and play.”

Gorgiev said he understands the challenge he’s facing. Spirit is a small school and by no means a soccer powerhouse. Last fall the Spartans went 0-9-1, tying Cape May Tech in the season opener before dropping nine straight games. In 2019, the Spartans were 6-11 and in 2018 Spirit was 1-18.

“In Europe they watch a lot of soccer on TV and that makes a big difference. There are kids in the United States who watch soccer on TV, but not everybody, and that’s a great way to learn and develop passion for the game. It’s getting there (in the U.S.),” he said. “Coaching high school soccer is going to be a challenge. It will be different because during the high school season you practice every day, where as with academy teams you might practice twice a week, maybe three times. I’m looking forward to getting to our preseason program, and once the season starts we’ll definitely have more than one game per week. I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.”

A positive for Gorgiev as he gets going this summer is he’ll have a relatively young squad to work with and a team that features a lot of returning players, including all three goalkeepers as well as guys such as Gavin Paolone, Sean Kane, Emmett Kane and Johnny Flammer.

“As much pressure as I have on me, it’s more just excitement for me. I know one of the players who also plays for my team. I know they didn’t have a good season last fall, so we’re going to try to build the program. We want to get them ready and I want to see the options that I have (in preseason). If kids have passion and desire they are always welcome on my team,” Gorgiev said. “I have styles that I like to play, but I can’t make a decision on what kind of style we’ll be playing until I see what kind of kids we have. Once I find out what the potential of these players is, we’ll go from there. If we get positive results out of games, that will work.

“I’m excited to meet the players and hopefully transfer my experience and knowledge to them. I really can’t wait to see what’s going to come out of this.”

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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