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No Barriers for Sockers' New Man : Call Him Keder, and Watch Him Click With His Kicks

November 27, 1987|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — There is a new Yugo Duo playing at the Sports Arena.

The Sockers used to have Steve Zungul and Branko Segota. Then Zungul was sold to Tacoma, where he teamed with countryman Preki to form the Northwest Yugo Duo. Segota was left without a fellow Yugoslav for a season and a half, but now he has been joined by Keder.

Preki . . . Sisko (Keder's brother) . . . Cico . . . Nebo (until recently known as Nebo Bandovic) . . . Keder . . . It's fashionable for Yugoslavian soccer players to score goals and use just one name.

Keder (Aleksandar Filipovic) got his nickname through fishing, not soccer. As a youngster who spent a lot of time fishing with his father, Keder never caught big fish, but he did reel in a lot of small fish known as Keder.

Now, at 22, Keder is playing regularly for the Sockers and has scored six goals in his first six games. And the 5-foot, 7-inch forward already has a gimmick to celebrate his goals. Call it the "Keder click" when he clicks his heels after scoring.

In the home opener against Kansas City, Keder did a lot of scoring and clicking. He had a hat trick, with Segota assisting on all three goals.

"In Yugoslavia, they like to make things happen," Segota said after the Kansas City game. "It's an understanding of how to play. We look for each other. It's communication."

Communication with feet, facial expressions and Yugoslavian phrases. Keder is just learning to speak English. Keder has learned some key words and phrases, but before a recent interview he said, "I'll call my friend to help us." His friend, Lazar Patic, translated for a reporter.

Before Patic arrived at the Sports Arena, Keder chatted in English, using most of his favorite phrases such as paycheck, goal, assist, coach.

Socker Coach Ron Newman lives near Keder in Tierrasanta and drives him to practices and games because Keder doesn't have a car. "His English is getting better," Newman said. "Now, we can have a conversation."

Clairemont Mesa Boulevard is another phrase Keder has mastered. That is the street near where he lives. Tierrasanta is the part of town where he lives.

On the field, Keder talks to Segota in Yugoslavian.

"Defenders don't understand us," Keder said. "We say, 'Go over there. I'll pass you the ball.' "

Most of his teammates also don't understand. Defender Gus Mokalis and goalkeeper Zoltan Toth--both born in Hungary--understand a little Yugoslavian, but Keder is looking forward to Zoran Karic joining the team. Karic, Keder's roommate, has been working out with the Socker reserve team and was signed to a one-year contract Tuesday, but he is not eligible to play in a game until he receives a working visa, which could take up to four weeks.

So, for now it is Keder and Segota.

"We understand each other," Keder said. "We read each other. We play similar soccer and know exactly where we are supposed to be at. It's easier to play with him because he is the best player and he gives you the ball on the dime. It's like we've played together for 10 years."

Actually, it hasn't even been 10 games. Keder joined the Sockers near the end of training camp in late October, signing a one-year contract for the Major Indoor Soccer League minimum salary of $24,000.

"I want to prove myself so I can get a longer contract," Keder said. "I could have played in Australia (with his brother Sisko) for more money than I receive here, but I want to prove myself here. After one year, I'm expecting to make more money for my quality."

So, how did Keder who lives in Belgrade, end up with the San Diego Sockers?

Last season, Keder scored two goals in 12 games with the New York Express, but when the Express folded, he returned to Yugoslavia. After the Sockers acquired Njego Pesa, who had played with the Express, Newman asked Pesa if he could recommend any promising young players. Pesa told Newman about Keder.

Newman tried to sign Keder last season, but because of visa problems Keder could not return to the United States before MISL rosters were frozen. However, Newman kept in touch with Branko Perananovic, the Yugoslavian agent who has helped many young Yugoslavian players come to the United States. Last summer, Perananovic set up a soccer tournament in Yugoslavia whereby foreign coaches could scout players. Newman, vacationing in England, was the only coach who attended the tournament.

"It was stifling hot and most uncomfortable," Newman said. "The poor buggers were playing a game in the morning and a game in the evening for two days."

The outstanding player in the tournament was Keder, who has been playing in leagues in Yugoslavia since he was 12, and like many of his countrymen, has played a lot of six-man soccer and likes the indoor game as much, if not more, than the outdoor game.

"Yugoslavia is littered with small all-weather fields that are not necessarily indoor fields, but they are six-a-side fields," Newman said. "They love to play six a side. I think that's why they are so good on this field over here."

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