Etien Velikonja was born in Šempeter pri Novi Gorici on 26th of December 1988. Football was his genuine love from the childhood, so his family soon decided to enroll young Etien to local football club ND Gorica, which is known and respected for it’s excellent youth system. Etien progressed very quickly, skipped age categories and successfuly climbed up the club’s hierarchy. Gorica’s U-14 team with Etien played in the finals of the National championship in the 2001/2002 season and later on in the 2004/2005 season Gorica won the U-17 National championship. Etien proceeded his studies in Ljubljana, where he went to Gimnazija Šiška and combined education with football. He showed his dedication to the cause by driving from Ljubljana to Nova Gorica and reverse every single week.
In 2005/2006 season Gorica and Etien won the U-19 National championship again. Etien Velikonja, already an U-17 and U-19 national team player, signed his first professional contract with Gorica on the 12th of July 2006. Only a month later he made a debut in Gorica’s first team in the Champions League qualifications against Romanian powerhouses Steaua Bucharest. His league debut came in September in Lendava, where only 17-year old Velikonja played for half an hour against Nafta. He scored his first league goal on the 5th of May 2007 in a match between Gorica and Maribor.
In next season Velikonja proved his potential in Gorica’s first team and then pursued a very successful 2008/2009 season, in which he exploded and took the rewards for best scorer of the competition with 17 goals in 32 matches. Many clubs came familliar with his talent and the interest grew with Velikonja being a regular in the Slovenian U21 team roster. Slovenia’s manager Matjaž Kek sent Velikonja an invitation to the Slovenian national team and Etien made a debut on the 12th of August 2009 in the World Cup 2010 qualification match against San Marino.
After a serious knee injury on the 17th of October 2010, a less pleasant period followed. Rehabilitation took a great amount of time and effort, but Velikonja was soon rewarded for his hard work. He transfered to Maribor, the most successful Slovenian team in recent decades. In Maribor’s purple coloured jersey Velikonja scored already on his first championship match against Rudar Velenje. Maribor won the league that season. In his second and last season in Maribor Velikonja scored 14 league goals. He played his most famous match against Glasgow Rangers in the Europa League play-offs. His 2-1 goal at the first match in Maribor proved vital for Maribor’s first Europa League qualification. Velikonja also won the Cup that season and was the best scorer of the competition.
On 12th of July 2012 Velikonja left Maribor. Slovenian champions accepted an offer from Cardiff City believed to be in the region of 2 million euros and Velikonja signed a four-year contract with his new club. He became one of a handful of Slovenian players who signed a contract with a team from England’s Premier League.
Style of play
Etien started his senior career as a winger due to his pace and ability to skip defenders. Nevertheless, his career took a new twist when he was subtly moved to a central forward role in which in excelled in the 2008/09 season. He showed remarkable finishing skills and proved to be a very lethal player in the penalty box with ability to score goals both with his head and feet. His style of play is determined by his pace, ability to run into spaces and great concentration when it comes to goal-scoring opportunities.
Etien is a cousin of Slovenia and current Augsburg striker Tim Matavž, with whome he shares childhood friendship and several common football-related memories since both progressed up the ranks in Gorica. Etien was one of the kids which escorted Slovenian senior team on the pitch before the start of legendary Euro 2000 group match between Slovenia and Yugoslavia, while two years later he carried Slovenian flag before the group match between Slovenia and Spain at World Cup 2002 in South Korea and Japan.