There are plenty of Brazilians playing in top flights across Europe but only one in the Macedonian First League – Stênio Júnior.
The 22-year-old joined FK Pelister this summer, having moved to Europe at the start of 2013 with Bulgaria's PFC Litex Lovech. The forward has helped a side that only stayed up last season via the play-offs start well enough to dream of a return to UEFA competition.
"I arrived [at Litex] at a time when internal relations in the club were not at their best – there was tension with the coach Hristo Stoichkov," Júnior told UEFA.com. "Both Litex and Pelister work closely, so when I was offered a chance to move to FYROM in June and be a starter for Pelister there wasn't a single doubt in my mind.
"I am happy to have come to a team filled mostly with young but very talented and professional players, who all helped me adapt very quickly to the new environment. I am convinced that together we can achieve great things this season."
Ten matches into the campaign, Pelister are fourth – just two points behind leaders FK Metalurg Skopje – following a 2-1 home loss to old rivals FK Vardar on Sunday. Nonetheless, the Bitola-based team are dreaming of their first European qualification since the 2008/09 UEFA Cup.
Former Horizonte FC attacker Júnior is confident the Green and Whites will return to winning ways fast. "For now we are playing good football and I think we are on the right path," he said. "We are well aware that if we continue to give our best in every match, we can bring joy to our fans and give Bitola European football next term."
Expectations are certainly high at Pelister after the club recently resolved long-term financial difficulties, investing in their squad by bringing in 16 new players, including seven foreigners. Their former captain from the late 1980s, Dragan Bocevski, has also returned as coach after 11 years at the helm of FK Napredok
"After 25 years, I am back at the club where I spent my best days as a player," said Bocevski, who turns 50 next month. "I have come back with a single goal, to help create a mighty Pelister who will compete for trophies."
Founded initially as FK Omladina in 1924, Pelister have a reputation for being one of the most popular sides in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, with a loyal army of fans and an academy which has produced some of the country's finest football names – Toni Savevski, Dragan Kanatlarovski, Gjorgi Hristov and Nikolce Noveski. However, their sole major honour remains the 2001 Macedonian Cup.
"For now we, the players, are still only dreaming of winning the league, but we are ready to take every chance we get to make this dream become a reality," said Júnior. "Let's wait and talk again when the campaign has finished."
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