The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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President Joe Biden speaks on Friday at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill 19 to tout his administration’s investment in infrastructure.
President Biden set to visit Pittsburgh this afternoon
By Brian Sherry, Contributing Editor • 1:05 pm
Satire | A better use for editorial space
By Anna Ehlers, Contributing Editor • 1:06 am

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President Joe Biden speaks on Friday at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill 19 to tout his administration’s investment in infrastructure.
President Biden set to visit Pittsburgh this afternoon
By Brian Sherry, Contributing Editor • 1:05 pm
Satire | A better use for editorial space
By Anna Ehlers, Contributing Editor • 1:06 am

Feature | Filip Mirkovic and Guilherme Feitosa use their experience to lead Pitt men’s soccer

Pitt+Panthers+celebrate+after+scoring+the+first+goal+during+the+match+against+Duquesne+at+the+Ambrose+Urbanic+Field+on+Oct.+17.
Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer
Pitt Panthers celebrate after scoring the first goal during the match against Duquesne at the Ambrose Urbanic Field on Oct. 17.

After an up-and-down season, No. 20 Pitt men’s soccer (6-4-3, 2-2-2 ACC) prepares to make another run at the college cup. Although they lack the experience of previous iterations, the Panthers know that everything they need to win the first national championship in program history remains in their locker room.

The Panthers’ unwavering belief in each other starts with the leaders of the team — senior midfielder Filip Mirkovic and junior midfielder Guilherme Feitosa. Mirkovic and Feitosa utilize their life experiences on and off the field to support a young Pitt squad. The two roommates each provide different, yet equally important components of creating a championship-worthy culture.

Mirkovic quickly became a star at Pitt. From his first year earning All-ACC Freshman Team honors, to last year landing a spot on the All-ACC Team First Team, Mirkovic has proven himself as a leader at Pitt. 

Mirkovic currently leads the ACC in assists and even holds the all-time program record in assists with 28. The Pitt senior knows what it takes to win at an elite level, making him an invaluable leader in the locker room.

Meanwhile, Feitosa also received All-ACC Freshman Team honors back in 2021, recording six assists and five goals in 13 starts during his first year. This season, injuries plagued Feitosa, preventing him from reaching new heights. But recently, Feitosa has picked up right where he left off, recording five points over the last four starts back from injury.

Head coach Jay Vidovich still maintains that Feitosa belongs among the best players in the country.

“For him to get going is just getting back on the field,” Vidovich said. “He’s always been going, he had a great start to the season and now that he’s back he can show he’s one of the best in the ACC and the country at what he does.”

Mirkovic’s soccer career began in his native country of Serbia, where his father became his driving force. Mirkovic credits his father and his Serbian heritage for a lot of his early development.

“I love it,” Mirkovic said about his Serbian background. “It’s something different. It’s unique — Serbian dads, they’re known for being very hard on their kids. So I did have a hard time with him, with ups and downs a lot of [the] time, but in the end, he made me stronger and it’s paying off.”

At the age of seven, Mirkovic moved to Manhattan, New York. He played at Academy Soccer, continuing to develop his skills. Eventually, he earned a scholarship offer from Pitt. While Mirkovic moved to the US at an early age, his Serbian roots remained important to him, influencing his choice to play at Pitt.

“I had a great relationship with the coaches,” Mirkovic said. “Jay, the head coach, his background is Croatian, and at the time, Michael Behonick was an assistant coach, who had a background of being Macedonian, so that was a little Balkan connection that led me here to Pitt.”

On the other hand, Feitosa grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Growing up in Brazil, soccer quickly became an integral part of his life.

“So I pretty much started playing soccer because I’m from Brazil,” Feitosa said. “And in Brazil, soccer is a big culture. It’s almost like a religion. Everyone supports a team, and everyone is behind their favorite player in Brazil. So it was always my biggest dream. Soccer is all I played back in Brazil. It was all I played with my friends and all I did in my free time. I have always been part of a soccer team since I can remember. So it’s been part of my life forever.”

Feitosa continued playing soccer when he moved to France at the age of 14. In France, Feitosa finally got an opportunity to play soccer professionally. Although he initially struggled with transitioning to a foreign country, Feitssa persevered and quickly found success. He earned the captaincy of his team and led them to an undefeated record and a promotion to a higher division.

Despite this, Feitosa did not receive a contract offer to play professionally in France, which led to him and his agent looking for other new avenues to continue his playing career.

“I was practicing with pros every day,” Feitosa said. “I was living the daily life of a pro back in France for almost two years. After those years, I was expecting a professional contract which never came. And so I was open to offers from anywhere. I remember my agent telling me about opportunities in America, if I wanted to give it a try. I was interested from the beginning, not only because of the soccer opportunity, but the lifestyle, being able to continue my studies while still pursuing my dream of playing soccer professionally.”

Not only did Pitt present an opportunity for Feitosa to resume his studies, but Pitt was also already helping international students like himself find success.

“At some point, Pitt offered me,” Feitosa said. “They had a few Brazilian players on the team, and I knew some French guys on the team. So I was always talking to them to see how Pitt was, and everything you heard was very positive. The coaches were amazing. Everyone was super supportive. The team was doing well. So I looked at it as the biggest opportunity I had.”

On his journey to Pitt, Feitosa learned four different languages and became familiar with many different cultures. Feitosa uses these experiences to support teammates, especially those experiencing similar situations as him.

“Every time there’s a recruit from overseas, I try to talk to them,” Feitosa said. “They ask me questions. I try to make them feel at home and try to make them feel like whenever they come over, they’re going to be welcomed as part of the family. This is a big piece of my job as a leader, because whenever people are engaged, comfortable and motivated about the program, it will make the program become better and raise its level.”

While Feitosa focuses on making a supportive environment, Mirkovic sets a high standard for his teammates while still making the work fun.

“He is a great guy to be around,” Feitosa said about Mirkovic. “He’s always mentoring and talking to everyone. I’m always laughing next to him with the team. But he still sets the expectations with his play. He leads us on the field, and we feel responsible to play at his level.”

The chemistry the team formed off the field seems to translate to their on-field performance. Mirkovic attributes the team’s improving synergy on game days to their bonding off the field.

“When you have chemistry off the field, your chemistry on the field starts to improve,” Mirkovic said. “You can tell when you’re starting to click better. You start to know how everyone else plays, so you know what runs he’s going to make, where he’s going to play the ball or when he’s going to shoot. Little details on the pitch make a huge difference as the season goes on.”

Now with a healthy Feitosa and the team coming together, Mirkovic has one last box to check in his storied Panther career.

“I want to leave … knowing that I gave everything for this university,” Mirkovic said. ”In my college career, I built some great relationships with the coaches and the players that were there for my four years. I just want to leave off with having set another example for what it means to play here. I want to give them a challenge for whoever wants to go after my records, whether it’s assists or minutes played. Most of all I want to bring a national championship back home.”

About the Contributor
Alex Porter, Staff Writer