Aleks Gogic, a 17-year-old former Fort Lee student, signed an English Premier League contract this month with the Reading Football Club after a scout noticed his talent at a New Jersey goalkeeping camp last summer.
Fort Lee High School only had Gogic at goalkeeper for two games, the first a shutout overtime victory against Tenafly, as the star made the decision to spend his time playing with the New York Red Bulls academy team, a player development program affiliated with the American pro club.
Gogic signed up for a course in goalkeeping with Glan Letheren, a retired Premier League goalkeeper who played professionally for 20 years before becoming a coach. Letheran’s Top Catch Goalkeeping course comes to Hillsborough for three weeks each June, and Gogic went to train with him last year - with no expectation that it would be the beginning of a career in professional soccer.
“I first met him just for a regular training session,” Gogic said in an email from his new residence in England. “I was actually thinking [of] becoming a history teacher after college but this opportunity came instead.”
Letheren had worked for years as a scout for Premier League teams like Leeds United, Manchester United, and Fulham Football Club, and saw in Gogic the potential to go further with his career.
“I told his parents he did really well and I’d like to see him again,” Letheren remembers.
After some additional work between the old pro and the young goalkeeper, Letheren worked his old connections in the premier league to get Gogic a ten-day tryout with Reading last December.
It was “pretty nerve wracking,” Gogic said. “The experience was completely different than any other time I played soccer because the tempo was a lot faster, I was playing with players [from] around the world, and I was playing with professional players too.”
“All I do is give them the opportunity with my contacts in Europe,” said Letheren, who through his years of scouting and play at the championship level can safely be assumed a good talent spotter.
Reading invited Gogic back again in January for another ten-day trial, and impressed the management once again. In early April, they signed him to a two-year contract that will pave the way for a potential debut in August.
Gogic now lives on his own with an English family, continuing his high school education with work provided by his old teachers.
“In the beginning it was hard to transition,” Gogic says, “because I wasn’t seeing my family everyday, plus not being able to hang out with my friends. I felt pretty sad leaving because I wasn’t going to see the people there, but my family and friends keep in touch with me everyday, which makes it easier for me.”
But Letheren, who saw in Gogic a unique talent, is optimistic about the American goalkeeper’s career, despite the reservations the teen may have had about leaving his country behind.
“This,” Letheren said from England, “is the place to be to become a world star in soccer.”