Come what may, this will be Deimantas Bička's final season in UEFA club competition. Now 38, the FK Ekranas midfielder will hang up his boots at the end of the year to focus on being the team's sporting director.
On paper, then, the Lithuanian titleholders' UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie against Finnish side HJK Helsinki could easily mark the end of Bička's European career. However, Bička told UEFA.com that experience has taught him a simple lesson. "You just have to believe you can win every game," he said.
Even though Bička lost 3-1 on aggregate to HJK in a 2001/02 UEFA Cup as an FK Ventspils player, the Ekranas captain is optimistic about the matches on 14 and 21 July. "Every European season is different, even if you sometimes face familiar opponents," he said. "This year the draw could have been easier, but we are not up against a real European heavyweight. Our chances are 50-50."
The midfielder made his continental debut with FK Kareda in the 1996/97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, appearing as a substitute in both legs as his team lost 4-2 away and drew 0-0 at home. That tie went with the form book, but Bička knows from his Ventspils days that in Europe there is no such thing as an unwinnable fixture.
'In the 2004/05 UEFA Cup we beat Brøndby IF on away goals," he recalled. "Nobody expected us to knock out such a strong rival, who had defeated FC Schalke 04 the season before. Other good memories include trips to VfB Stuttgart and Newcastle United FC where the atmosphere inside the stadium really made an impression on me."
Good times have accompanied bad, with Ekranas's 10-1 aggregate drubbing by Rosenborg BK in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup one result Bička prefers to forget. "Sometimes you lose even when you play well, but in that one we played really badly and got an awful result," he said. "You try and consign such things to the furthest corners of your memory."
With no regrets about his career, Bička is not sorry to be hanging up his boots. "I wanted to retire after last season but was persuaded to stay on, and the club also offered me the sporting director's job," he said. "I'm still learning, but it's an interesting role with a lot of new things and I have made lots of new acquaintances.
"I like it, but it takes a lot of time away from football," Bička added. "
After this season I will definitely call it a day as a player. There is no point torturing myself physically and mentally any more. It's better to give someone younger a chance."
Meanwhile, Ekranas have strengthened their back line with defender Yamoudou Camara. The 22-year-old Frenchman was a free agent after his contract with AS Nancy-Lorraine expired, and signed for Ekranas after a two-week trial in Panevezys. "It's a good chance for me to make progress in my career," he said. "I had other offers but decided this is the right place for me."
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