Millwall manager Neil Harris tears up recalling touching last encounter with Matija Sarkic after footballer dies aged 26
Posted by  badge Boss on Jun 18
An emotional Neil Harris paid tribute to Matija Sarkic (Pictures: Getty)

Millwall manager Neil Harris has paid tribute to Matija Sarkic and recalled his touching last encounter with the footballer after his tragic death at the age of 26.

Championship side Millwall were ‘completely devastated’ to .

‘Everyone at the club sends their love and condolences to Matija’s family and friends at this immensely sad time,’ they said in a statement.

Sarkic made 33 appearances for Millwall last season, having signed from side Wolves in August 2023.

The Montenegro international also had spells at Aston Villa, Wigan Athletic, Shrewsbury Town, Birmingham City and Stoke City.

An emotional Harris described Sarkic as a ‘really good, caring man’ and said the goalkeeper was ‘so excited’ about a trip home to see his family when they crossed paths for the last time.

‘First thoughts have to go with Mati’s parents and his brothers,’ the Millwall manager told the . ‘They had a wonderful son and a wonderful brother who was a really caring, good man.

‘Obviously getting the call at 7 o’clock in the morning first thing on the weekend, you know it’s not going to be positive news. But you could never imagine the devastation in the moment that you find out that such a good man at such a tender age has lost his life.

‘Words find it hard to explain how you feel. It makes it very emotional to me because I have a 22-year-old son myself, Mati was only a few years older.

‘Any human being, any Millwall fan or anybody in life can relate to something like that. [It’s] devastating news for the family, for our football club.’

Harris, who returned to Millwall in January, added: ‘What a bloke. There’s no surprise that when you read obituaries on social media and people so close to him talk so fondly of him, they talk about his radiant smile and his human nature and his goodwill.

Sarkic in action for Championship side Millwall (Picture: Getty)

‘I only worked with Mati for a three-month period. I was with him last Thursday at the training ground and he had a huge smile on his face, he was so excited about going to see the family in Montenegro that evening.

‘Even then [he was] just radiant. He’d had a great summer, performed so well for his nation against Belgium and been to his brother’s wedding, so proud.

‘As a character at the training ground, every day he came in, win, lose or draw, smile on his face and just wanted to better. That was his thought process.

‘His philosophy was, “Right, play well or don’t play well, how can he be better? How can he be the best version of himself?” He was very driven and you could see that he had high aspirations for himself to keep moving forward.

Slovenia wore black armbands in tribute to Sarkic (Picture: Getty)

‘He wanted to build his caps up for his country but also perform really well for us and drag us forward.

‘I can’t praise him highly enough as a human being but also as a professional as well. It doesn’t always feel right to talk sort of work in times like this, but I think in Mati’s case it does, because he loved the game. He loved his job.’

Sarkic impressed in a friendly against Euro 2024 hopefuls Belgium just days before his tragic death.

The Slovenia team wore black armbands in tribute to Sarkic during their Euros opener against Denmark on Sunday.

‘In the first match of the European Championship, the Slovenian national team wore a black flag in memory of our goalkeeper Matija Sarkic,’ the Montenegro Football Association posted after the match.

‘With this move, Jan Oblak and his teammates showed compassion for everyone in our country and paid respect to our Matia on the biggest stage. Slovenians, thank you.’

Montenegro manager Robert Prosinecki also praised the goalkeeper, saying: ‘I woke up at half past seven with the worst possible information.

‘I’m in shock, a lot of people called me, I don’t know what to say. He was great in training, wonderful as a person.

‘Devoted to football, I really don’t know how to find the right words at times like these. Condolences to the loved ones, it is a terrible loss.’

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