Slaviša Žungul

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Slaviša Žungul
Personal information
Full name Slaviša Žungul
Date of birth (1954-07-28) 28 July 1954 (age 60)
Place of birth Požarevac, FPR Yugoslavia
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Playing position Forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1971–1978 Hajduk Split 177 (82)
1978–1983 New York Arrows (indoor) 145 (372)
1983–1984 Golden Bay Earthquakes (NASL) 46 (36)
1983–1984 Golden Bay Earthquakes 51 (39)
1984–1986 San Diego Sockers (indoor) 94 (123)
1986–1988 Tacoma Stars (indoor) 103 (89)
1988–1990 San Diego Sockers (indoor) 53 (21)
National team
1974–1976 Yugoslavia 14 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Slaviša Žungul, known in the United States as Steve Zungul (born 28 July 1954 in Požarevac, PR Serbia, FPR Yugoslavia) is a retired Yugoslav American football (soccer) striker.

Žungul began his career with Hajduk Split in his native Yugoslavia before controversially moving to the United States where he became a dominant indoor soccer striker. His indoor career began with the New York Arrows of Major Indoor Soccer League and ended with the San Diego Sockers. His amazing scoring ability earned him the nickname Lord of all Indoors. He also spent two seasons playing outdoor soccer with the Golden Bay Earthquakes of the North American Soccer League. In 1984, he was the NASL MVP. He also earned fourteen caps with the Yugoslavia national football team between 1972 and 1976.

Early life[edit]

Žungul was born Slaviša Ivanović in Požarevac, but his biological father died when he was still an infant. His mother Danica quickly re-married and moved to Kaštel Lukšić near Split, PR Croatia where baby Slaviša was given his stepfather's last name.[1][2]

Club career[edit]

Hajduk Split[edit]

When he was sixteen, Žungul began his football career in Split, playing for Hajduk Split starting in 1972 and continuing until 1978. He led the team in scoring every season and finished his Hajduk stint with 176 goals. During his six years with the team, he led them to three Yugoslav First League titles, in 1974 and 1975 as well as four Yugoslav Cup trophies.

At Hajduk he quickly established himself as the focal point of head coach Tomislav Ivić's setup as well as becoming a fan favourite for his off-the-cuff ways and jet-set lifestyle, often seen in bars around the city while dating models, pinups, singers, and paegent contestants.[3] His scoring prowess at Hajduk drew comparisons to Gerd Müller in the Yugoslav press.

In 1978, 24-year-old Žungul received lucrative offers from NASL clubs in the United States. The sporting regulations of SFR Yugoslavia stated that players can't transfer abroad until serving out their mandatory army stint and turning 28 years of age. In certain cases exceptions were made so that a player's transfer would be allowed in the calendar year during which he'll be turning 28 or even a year early, but the completion of the army stint was absolutely mandatory. Being 24 years of age, Žungul was thus years away from even considering a move abroad, however, also being on bad terms with club management led by club president Tito Kirigin over unpaid wages,[4] Žungul became concerned Hajduk would send him off to serve the mandatory military stint just to further delay the payments they owed him.

On 3 December 1978, Žungul played in Hajduk's last match before the winter break of the 1978-79 league season — a 5-0 home thrashing of FK Sarajevo at the Stari plac Stadium — scoring twice thus increasing his half-season goal tally to 12.[5] He then asked the club management to allow him to go to New York City for a few weeks in order to accompany his singer girlfriend Moni Kovačič (famous for appearing in Start, the Yugoslav counterpart to Playboy)[6] while further mentioning to them that while there he would also take part in a few exhibition indoor soccer matches in order to stay in competitive shape for the season restart. Not suspecting anything foul, the club granted permission.[7]

In actuality, through countryman Dragan Popović, Žungul (represented by sports agent Ante "Bekin" Kuzmić) had already agreed a contract with the newly established, Popović-coached New York Arrows of the also newly established Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL).[8] Žungul's idea was to defect from Yugoslavia, initially play some indoor soccer in the MISL, and eventually once the dust settles switch over to "real soccer" in NASL.[9]

Within weeks, in late December, his defection and deception became known back home, creating one of the biggest scandals in Yugoslav sporting history. Hajduk management was furious, starting a smear campaign against the player in Yugoslav media, branding him a traitor, a deserter, and a drunk. They also got the Yugoslav FA (FSJ) to enlist its FIFA connections and request a ban on Žungul taking part in any FIFA-affiliated competitions. FSJ did so and FIFA granted the ban, leaving the MISL, which was not affiliated with FIFA, as his only option.

Indoor soccer: New York Arrows[edit]

Settling for an indoor football career, Žungul, now known as Steve Zungul, tried to make the best of the new situation. After playing European Cup football with Hajduk as well competing at the European Championship with Yugoslavia, the 24-year-old suddenly found himself in a whole new sport resembling human pinball with ice hockey-style dasher boards around the field, buzzers, flashing lights, disco music, galloping players and the ball rebounding haphazardly off the walls and around the turf. Though financially well compensated for his services, the move to indoor in professional terms meant being reduced to playing with and against players whose skills and abilities are far inferior to his.

Making his debut in the Arrows' opening game of the season in Nassau Coliseum he immediately established his scoring credentials, recording four goals. He would soon start scoring goals like a man possessed. He finished the campaign close second to Fred Grgurev in the 1978-79 season scoring race as the Arrows won the title. In his second season, Zungul led the MISL in goals scored in 1979-80, guiding his team to the second straight league title and winning the league MVP honours.

In the 1980-81 season, Zungul achieved an amazing feat when he scored 108 goals in 40 games. In comparison, the second leading scorer, Vic Davidson of the Phoenix Inferno scored only 50 goals. Arrows won the title again (their third straight), while Zungul won MVP for the second consecutive season.

Zungul picked up another 103 goals the next season, 1981-82, leading the team to yet another league title while co-sharing the league MVP honour with Polish forward Stan Terlecki. All the while, Zungul pursued every legal avenue available in order to be allowed to play outdoor soccer. He took his case to the Supreme Court of the United States and finally managed to procure a licence to play on the big pitch.

For the 1982-83 season, he began the campaign with the Arrows but the team was in decline as well as his scoring rate that took a bit of dip compared to previous season. Now 28-years-of-age, in January 1983 he asked for an increase of his $150,000 annual paycheck, knowing that the financially strapped management couldn't afford. The Arrows responded by trading Steve Zungul to the Golden Bay Earthquakes of the North American Soccer League (NASL), who were playing the 1982-1983 MISL season as a guest team, for Gary Etherington and Gordon Hill. While billed as a move to "Americanize" the Arrows, it was largely a cost saving device. While Zungul still led the league in scoring, he bagged only 75 goals.

Now the FIFA ban became the issue once again, and FSJ chimed in, asking for the ban to be upheld.[10] It wasn't, due to the Earthquakes refusing to honour it by referencing the US Supreme Court decision, meaning the player would get his chance in the outdoor game again following a four-year absence.

Return to outdoor: Golden Bay Earthquakes[edit]

Zungul went on to become a first team NASL All Star in both 1983 and 1984.

In 1984 he capped his outdoor career by being named the NASL MVP. That year, Zungul registered 20 goals and 10 assists in 24 games, but could not keep the Earthquakes out of the bottom of the Western Conference.

Meanwhile, without Zungul's scoring touch the Arrows collapsed and folded at the end of the 1983-1984 season.

Back to indoor: San Diego Sockers and Tacoma Stars[edit]

When the NASL itself collapsed at the end of the 1984 season, Zungul moved to the San Diego Sockers (MISL). He led the league again in scoring in 1985 and 1986, this time playing for the San Diego Sockers. On February 5, 1986, the Sockers sold Zungul to the Tacoma Stars where he played from 1986 to 1988.[1] In 1988, he returned to the Sockers where he ended his career in 1990. It was not until 1987 that his run as top scorer finally came to a close, as another indoor luminary, the Dallas Sidekicks' Tatu, took Zungul's place at the top of the scoring charts. Zungul was also named the league's MVP from 1979 to 1982, and then again in 1985 and 1986. At one time, he was the all-time goal scoring leader in indoor soccer with 715 goals. That currently ranks fourth behind Hector Marinaro, Zoran Karic, and Tatu.

International career[edit]

Žungul earned 14 caps for Yugoslavia and played in Euro 76. But he never played in the World Cup because he did not serve the mandatory stint in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA).

Post-playing[edit]

Simultaneous to playing soccer in America, Žungul invested his earnings in various business ventures including real-estate. He has at one time owned properties in Wellington, Florida.

Žungul reportedly lives in Escondido, California with his wife Lorenza and their two children Sashka and Marco.[11]

References[edit]

External links[edit]