Tuesday 01 December 2020, 00:39

Cycling star Pogacar rooting for De Bruyne and Oblak

  • Tadej Pogacar is cycling’s newest star

  • He played football for a long time before switching to the bike

  • The Slovenian gives his picks for The Best awards

"For a cyclist, winning the Tour de France is probably like winning a World Cup for a footballer. Triumphing in big events like these is the best feeling in the world for an athlete. It’s the culmination of all your work and the reward for your motivation."

The words are those of Tadej Pogacar, in conversation FIFA.com, and they are certainly borne of experience. In September this year, the Slovenian made cycling history by becoming the youngest winner of the Tour de France since 1904, aged just 21. You would be forgiven for thinking that this cycling genius must therefore have dedicated himself to his discipline from an early age. In reality, however, it all started with football.

"I no longer remember when or how it all started. What I do know is that I had a lot of fun playing football, whether it was during matches or training. I played for a few years, but then cycling began to compete with football. I then had to make a choice, which I admit was a very difficult one," Pogacar said.

Tadej Pogacar

Given how successful his early cycling career has been, you have to think that choosing to ride was the right decision. However, that is not to say that Pogacar bade farewell to his first love: "I still love playing outside the cycling season when the weather allows," he explained. "While not a great footballer, I don't do too badly: I'm better in defence than attack."

Of course, between training and racing, cycling now takes up most of his year, but Pogacar has the answer: video. "I like re-watching goals or some classic matches," he said. "And then there's Playstation: I play a lot of FIFA!"

When at the controls, Pogacar is frequently in the colours of Manchester City and hopes to see one of their their stars crowned at The Best FIFA Football Awards 2020. "Me; I'd vote for Kevin de Bruyne. He had a great season with both City and Belgium. I simply love the way he plays!"

Slovenian stars

While on the face of it, football and cycling would appear to have little in common, award ceremonies like these do at least have some parallels. At The Best Awards, just as in major multi-stage cycling races, it is about rewarding the winner for an overall individual performance in what is fundamentally a team sport.

"This is indeed one of the paradoxes of our sports," says the leader of UAE Team Emirates. "And as far as cycling is concerned, I don't like that aspect of things. I’d never have won the Tour de France without the help of my team-mates. They did everything so that I could win. By right, they should have been up there on the podium with me."

Of course, the respective teams of the The Best Awards’ winners will not be centre stage either at the 17 December ceremony. That said, many will leave with accolades, as no fewer than eight categories will be recognised this year, including The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper 2020. And there are no prizes for guessing the Slovenian's preference for this prize.

"I hope Jan [Oblak, the only Slovenian nominee this year] wins. In any case, he deserves to be on the shortlist as he’s certainly among the best goalkeepers in the world. I've never met him but I’d love to," he concluded.

Between him and Oblak, Slovenia can be proud of two magnificent champions.

Tadej Pogacar