Capitanio Rushes to MVP in Slovenia
Ahh, there’s nothing like a Slovenian spring and summer. The heck with the Jersey shore or Myrtle Beach or Bah Hahbor, Maine for your vacation respite. Slovenia, the capital of Ljubljana specifically, is the place to be.
At least if you want to play some football and your name is Jordan Capitanio.
First, a little geography. Get you maps out and go across the pond to Europe. Slovenia is the little area about the size of a breadcrumb that is nestled just to the west of Italy and bordered by Croatia, Hungary, Austria and the Adriatic Sea.
Beautiful but not on most people’s vacation itinerary. The 24 year-old Capitanio wasn’t on vacation, however. Still carrying the pigskin passion that earned him All-NVL honors at Torrington High class of 2004, and made him the second all-time leading rusher at Western New England College, Capitanio isn’t ready to pack in his pads and found an opportunity far away from the fields of America.
He talked with a friend who had knowledge of the Central European Football League and tuned in to the league’s web site. The 5-11, 205 lb. running back filled out a profile with his basic background, including accolades while at the same time researching what team might be a good fit for him.
“I was very proactive. Being a Division III athlete I wanted to continue to play and looked for teams that needed a running back,” said Capitanio from his Torrington home. “Teams have profile pages and players search for teams just like teams search for players.”
Capitanio found his fit with the Ljublijana Silver Hawks. It proved to be a perfect match. The team paid his expenses including airfare, housing, transportation, a phone and 500 Euros a month (about 0). He in turn led his club to the championship game of the CEFL scoring a touchdown in a 42-20 loss to Vukkovi Beograd.
Capitanio didn’t just play, he stood out. Enough to earn the league’s Offensive Player of the Year honors, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in eight games while scoring at least once in every game.
“The award meant more than the team’s success because my goal is to pursue a career in football at least for the next y ear or so,” said Capitanio. “So to know the coaches saw what I was doing was great.”
There are some teams in Europe tha pay up to ,000 a month, making his exploits a valuable asset should he seek to play again in Europe. Capitanio called this level of play equivalent to “sub-par Division III or high school” and likened the play-calling to Pop Warner sophistication. Not unexpected in countries learning the game.
“There is a simple understanding of the game,” said Capitanio. “The offense and defense is more complicated over here.”
Communication was not a problem for Capitanio since most kids learn English when they are about 10 and all the football terms were in English. There were also four teammates from American which made the experience that much easier.
The biggest difference was the field size. Games were played on soccer fields, a lot of which were different dimensions. On some fields each end zone would go out 40 yards and there would only be about five yards between the two 40-yard lines.
The biggest adjustment was the travel. The league has teams from Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Turkey with games that were played on Saturday afternoons.
“The bus trips were the worse,” said Capitanio. “We would get on a bus at 5 a.m., travel for eight hours, play and get back on the bus and arrive back home at 4 a.m. I looked at the coach and said, “No wonder we haven’t won any road games yet.’ “
The teams played six games, one every other week, in front of crowds averaging 300 to 400 people a game. The championship game drew about 800 fans. When not playing the team practiced two or three times a week.
Even the expected culture shock off the field never materialized. Ljubljana is a modern city with all the comfort of American cities. Well, almost all.
“All you saw on television was snooker (a form of pool) and there were no sports bars,” chuckled Capitanio
When not on the field, Capitanio had a friend who has all the modern video games and an Xbox and worked out a lot. "I spent a lot of time being a lazy bum,” said Capitanio laughing again.
Capitanio is currently playing for the semipro Connecticut Bearcats out of Wallingford when not working as a general laborer. He made some contacts in the CEFL including former N.Y. Giant running back Rueben Droughns who has helped him contact Chris Palmer, the coach of the newly formed Hartford team.
Whatever the future holds, he calls his experience overseas `a ball’ where he had a chance to play and achieved great success, made some contacts and was able to give back and teach some football to a learned audience.
It may not be on everybody’s list, but as far as Capitanio is concerned there is much to be said for a Slovenian spring and summer.