Chencinski celebrating a Hoops goal in Europe. Bryan Keane/INPHO

'Football has really worked out for me. I’ve been able to see different countries and meet new people'

Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper Tomer Chencinski is enjoying life in Dublin ahead of Friday’s derby with Bohemians.

Updated at 21.00

FOOTBALL HAS ALLOWED Tomer Chencinski to explore the world and immerse himself in cultures he may not have otherwise had the chance to experience.

The well-travelled goalkeeper, who was born in Israel but moved to Canada with his parents as an eight-year-old, enjoyed playing spells in his birth country, the US, Moldova, Finland and Sweden before arriving at his current club last December.

Having signed for Shamrock Rovers during the close-season, Chencinski and his wife began their new life a stone’s throw away from the club’s home ground in Tallaght.

They have since welcomed two-month-old daughter Maya into the world and, speaking to The42 this week, he explains that all three have settled well in Dublin.

We’re thoroughly enjoying it,” the 32-year-old said. “Dublin is an incredible city and Irish people are so friendly in general. It’s amazing that they have welcomed us with open arms.”

As most goalkeepers will tell you, young Tomer didn’t always want to play in nets. His earliest memories involve kicking a ball around with the neighbours’ children in the city of Bat Yam, which is just south of Tel-Aviv.

“When I was growing up in Israel, I used to play barefoot in the back yard with all the kids from the building,” he tells. “I thought it was the biggest pitch in the world but looking back it was maybe three metres by four metres.

So my love comes from that time but I only began playing organised football with a team when I moved to Canada.”

Chasing “the North American dream” — as he refers to it — Chencinski’s parents upped sticks and relocated to Thornhill, Ontario in the early ’90s. He joined the local club and, just by chance, found himself in goal one day.

“Every goalkeeper has a story about how he became one,” he says. “Very rarely do people want to be keepers. Most want to be the striker — scoring goals.

“I was a right-back but we were playing in a tournament when the keeper broke his wrist saving shots in the warm-up. The manager asked who wanted to go in nets and I raised my hand because I thought the gloves were cool.”

He continued to play through his teens and balanced football commitments with a business degree in college. But it wasn’t until later that Chencinski thought he could possibly make a living out of the sport.

“When I was a little kid I wanted to be a professional footballer but I went to university and only when I was 20 did I think ‘maybe I can actually play professionally’,” he adds.

“I realised it may not be at the very highest level but I decided I’d try and do it for as long as I can. It’s something that has really worked out for me and I’ve been able to see different countries and new meet people so I’m very thankful for that.

It has helped me develop — not only as a football but also as a person. It’s been great to have all these different experiences.”

After a stint on the books at MLS club Toronto FC, he joined New Jersey-based New Ironbound Express in the USL in 2008.

In the nine years that have followed, the stopper can list Nistru Otaci (Moldova), Harrisburg City Islanders (the US), Vaasan Palloseura (Finland), Örebro SK (Sweden), Maccabi Tel-Aviv (Israel), Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan (Israel), Hapoel Nir Ramat HaSharon (Israel), RoPS (Finland), FC Santa Claus (Finland) and Helsinborgs as his former employers.

He has also earned one senior cap for Canada — making his international debut against Belarus in 2013.

Tomer Jordi Chencinski with Maccabi Tel-Aviv manager Jordi Cruyff. He was the club's sporting director at the time.

Chencinski’s move to Rovers came about with the help of then Hoops manager Sami Ristilä, who knew his goalkeeping abilities from their time in Finnish football. Recommending him to the club,  Tomer was offered a move and, after talking it out with his wife, he decided to accept.

I thought about it more and more and we made the decision to give it a shot,” he says. “I had another year left on my contract in Sweden but we spoke and thought that this would be the best opportunity.”

Chencinski quickly established himself as the Hoops number one ahead of fellow new arrival Kevin Horgan and he has since gone on to appear in 21 of the 22 Premier Division matches.

So how does the League of Ireland compare to countries he’s previously played in?

“It depends which league you’re looking at,” is his reply. “The level here is higher than Finland, but it’s maybe not as high as Sweden. If you look at it, the players are a little bit more developed in the Swedish league but the main reason for that is the best Irish players leave Ireland at a very young age for the UK.

It’s still a very challenging and talented league.”

Tomer Chencinski At Tallaght Stadium. Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

It’s derby week for Rovers and Dublin rivals Bohemians, who meet at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night (8pm). Currently fourth in the table and having already beaten the Gypsies twice in the league this season, Stephen Bradley’s side can take one step closer to securing a European spot with victory.

By now well-up on the what the fixture means, Chencinski has plenty of experience playing in matches where local bragging rights is at stake.

“When I played in Israel, we had the Tel-Aviv derby, which is pretty historic,” he says. “People are very passionate and everyone in the city is either red or yellow.

“In Sweden, I played in another big one involving Helsingborgs and Malmo. Every derby might be different but the emotions are the same. It means so much to the fans and although there are only three points at stake it feels like there is much more on the line.

“With the history between Rovers and Bohs traditionally, there will be a lot of intensity and emotion, but that’s something we’re prepared for.”

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