By Tiana Vitlic
There are many ways to remember a life lost through fond memories, photographs, stories. The life of Martin Knezevic is celebrated with all those – and a football tournament.
Martin, who died 19 years ago aged 22, was a local coach for Hurstville Zagreb FC. He was a team member, a team player, someone who was “fun loving, with a cheeky smile you could see for miles”. He was a friend, a brother, and a son. Several months after his death, his team decided to honour Martin with a tournament in his name.
“People from all over Australia come to Carss Park every February to participate,” says Visnja Begovic, Martin’s older sister. Since its beginning, the Martin Knezevic Football Tournament has grown from eight teams and 300 attendees, to 36 teams with thousands of attendees. It is a fun-filled event where people come enjoy a barbecue, catch up with friends, and participate in the sport Martin loved most.
“The first round begins at eight o’clock in the morning. It then continues throughout the day with knock out games,” Visnja Begovic says. “Usually it finishes by seven or eight o’clock at night.”
Tommy Prusac was one of Martin’s many childhood friends who helped set up the tournament. He and other friends formed a team entitled ‘Martin’s Boys’ and have been competing ever since.
“They’re my favorite team,” Visnja Begovic admits. “They haven’t won yet, but they’ve come close. I’m hoping next year is their year. My eldest son, who is named after my brother, usually presents the Martin Cup to the winning team. It really means a lot to me.”
Visnja Begovic, her sister Angela Burcham, and their parents Janko and Biserka Knezevic attend the Martin Cup every year.
“It touches my heart and my family’s hearts. What really touches us is the support we get from everyone every year, even from those who have never met Martin. This tournament has kept his memory alive,” she says.