Already Spirit's top scorer, Hunjak's next goal is U.S. citizenship

November 28, 1992|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

Since he is playing indoor soccer for an American team in a American city and is married to an American woman, the Baltimore Spirit's Goran Hunjak thinks it's high time he made it official.

On Tuesday in Wichita, Kan., he will become a U.S. citizen.

First, Hunjak must pass a few tests, which he expects to be a snap. The only thing still Yugoslavian about Goran Hunjak is his name. His grasp of the English language is exceptional.

In preparation for Tuesday's two-hour, 100-question test, Hunjak has studied U.S. history, government, law and English grammar.

"Now I know more about U.S. history than my wife," Hunjak said with a smile, while acknowledging that Gina helped him perfect his English.

As one of two foreigners on the roster -- England's Michael King is the other -- Hunjak will lead the undefeated Spirit as it attempts to win its fifth straight against the Harrisburg Heat today at the Baltimore Arena. He is the team's top scorer with 19 points, including four two-point goals, three one-point goals and eight assists.

"You need someone on the midfield whose individual brilliance can make things happen," coach Kenny Cooper said. "Someone who can create or draw defenders to him or pass or score. Goran can do all of those things."

Hunjak began playing soccer at age 5 in Yugoslavia, where pro teams sponsor youth programs. By 10, he had four practices and one game a week.

He began hearing about two Yugoslavian heroes, Mike Stankovic, now a Spirit assistant coach, and Steve Zungul, known as the "Lord of All Indoors" for his indoor soccer skills.

"They were playing well in the U.S., which has the best indoor soccer in the world," Hunjak said. "I came here not for the money, but to discover something as a young man, for an opportunity to get a great job in a good country."

That was in 1988. Hunjak was 22. He wound up with the Major Soccer League's Wichita Wings and soon met his wife-to-be.

"I met Gina in an Italian restaurant in Wichita," Hunjak said. "I could barely speak English, so I told her I was an exchange student."

Last May, after his fourth season with Wichita, Hunjak was sent on loan by the Wings to the Blast for a game against Aston Villa of England. Hunjak scored once in the Blast's 4-2 win. "Right then and there," Cooper said, "I knew Goran could play for us."

When the MSL folded, Cooper sought Hunjak for Baltimore's new team, the Spirit of the National Professional Soccer League.

Hunjak will fly to Wichita on Tuesday morning for his citizenship tests, then work out on his own and visit his wife's relatives while he waits for the Spirit to arrive for its game next Friday against the Wings.

Hunjak is convinced by then he will be a U.S. citizen.

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