NAIM KULLOJKA: HE'S GOT NT AT HEART
07s Boys parent coach tells us his Nitros story
- NT AT HEART celebrates the volunteers who are at the core of our club. Each fortnight we will tell the story of a special individual who helps to enrich the soccer lives of those around them. We begin with a big-hearted parent coach from our 07s Boys.
PART OF THE GREEN MACHINE...Naim (second from right back row) before an exhibition with Ottawa Futuro
NAIM KULLOJKA fell in love with The Beautiful Game on the tough pitches of his childhood in Albania…now he has found a new soccer home in North Toronto.
Parent coach Naim is a hugely popular figure within our gifted 07s boys squad as he helps the technical staff week in, week out at training sessions and matches.
Dedicated Naim’s son, midfielder Grant, has been a part of the set up for five years now and his dad has never once regretted the decision to choose NT as their club.
Naim reflected: “We were looking for a club would offer the best soccer experience. After we tried different places like recreation and academy set-ups, we decided that NT is the place and the club to be at.”
Big-hearted Naim is a volunteer without an agenda, he is a well-loved figure throughout Head Coach Andy King’s U12 Boys group because of his genuine concern for the welfare of EVERY player within it.
But what first attracted him to the thought of becoming a Nitros parent coach?
He stressed: “At first it was simply the love for soccer. I had grown up back home playing soccer in the street or on small fields, improvising here and there just so that we could play without any adult supervision or help.
“When we started with NT and saw how hard the coaches were working, I decided to step in and help.
“I believe in giving back to the community and making even the smallest impact on young players’ lives was what drove me to become a volunteer.”
Naim has helped a string of the club’s Technical Staff to rear a richly talented 07s group that will graduate to the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) Central Soccer League (CSL) in November of next year.
From son Grant’s original group of Nitros both keeper Ryan Tiltack and defender Jack Hayeems this summer signed for Toronto FC’s Academy to underline the quality that has been nurtured in this age group.
Naim is a big believer in the staff now assembled at NT and he reasoned: “Seeing those boys growing up in the right soccer environment has shown me that every child can succeed given the support and the chance.
“I have enjoyed so much having the chance to meet up with the technical coaches because in every coaching session you always learn something new.
“I feel that being there for being there for almost all practices and games, you get to see first-hand the efforts of everyone involved to make this the best experience.
“In the modern world it is easy to be cynical but I know how much everyone at NT tries to create memorable moments for the boys that will last them for many years to come.
“The coaches here genuinely care about the players and give their best to make every day the best one possible.”
Naim, who works for car giants BMW in his day job and even finds time to also coach the BMW Group Canada team, knows only too well that every soccer club has its flaws.
After all, he is a Manchester United fan and this season that’s not an easy job!
On a serious note, ntsoccer.com asked the 07s parent coach what he felt the club gets RIGHT in its approach to the development of players.
Naim said: “In my opinion one of the biggest aspects that NT gets right is the way that they create the right environment for every child to improve, participate and have a positive learning experience where everyone is welcomed and no one is judged.
“This is one of the core aspects that guides us all at the club.”
When the chance came up to travel to America for Grant’s first major tournament on the road with Nitros, Naim was a big driving force in the 07s party.
Three squads took part in this summer’s Lakefront Classic in Rochester under the guidance of former Head Coach Iain King who has now moved into the OPDL ranks at the club.
The trip was to produce a memory Naim will always treasure and he smiled: “Grant was a part of the White Team who won their division in the tournament without losing a game and there were some dramatic matches.
“We all supported each other’s squads on what was a very hot weekend and there was a great club feeling.
“The medal ceremony that we had when we returned home to Toronto at practice was the cherry on the top.”
ROCKIN' IT IN ROCHESTER...Naim and fellow parent coach Aleco Borba helped the 07s Boys win the Lakefront Classic
As respected new Head Coach Andy and the highly-experienced Octavian Ghidanac mastermind a key stage of the 07s development Naim is looking forward to the next chapter of his Nitros story.
He remains steeped in the game as an influential member of St Andrew’s Soccer Club, an over-35s League which operates at the lush Sunnybrook Park in the summer.
And he wants to see Grant, with the help of NT, retain the same lifelong love of soccer his dad has.
Naim admitted: “I would like Grant to continue playing with the club for as long as possible and be an active member of the club for many years to come.
“We have seen the benefits of NT OFF the field in different aspects too. Those moments of arranging for carpools and taking care of each other’s kids before and after the practice and games.
“We have made so many friends, kids have got to socialise more and have fun. Going to eat together after the game, celebrating someone's birthday or enjoying a chat with other parents while the boys enjoyed swimming in the pool parties are memories that are going to last for me.”
Naim’s own journey from Albania to settling and raising his family in Canada is one he feels is mirrored by so many in our multi-cultural community.
Now with the World Cup coming in 2026, and Canada being part of the successful three nation bid to host alongside the USA and Mexico, he sees a unique chance for the game to grow even further here.
He insisted: “The fact that we are so diverse as a country should not be seen as and obstacle but a great opportunity for soccer to develop and I hope those who matter now invest in the future of it.
“The World Cup coming to our homeland is a great inspiration. This is the most important soccer event in the world and it’s happening in our backyard.
“It does raise the bar for soccer in Canada and especially in my eyes for the Nitros to be ready. I would like to see Canada do well and why can we not have some Nitros players make the national team?
“I guess my ultimate dream would be sitting at the stadium watching the game and maybe telling the story to a guy next next to me of how I used to be a parent coach for that player out there playing for Canada!”