The game itself was not enough to make a living. Dusan graduated university and began working while still playing futsal with Đavo, then KMF Liman and KMF Vojvodina.
He also earned his master’s degree and found his calling as a professor of robotics, mechatronics and mechanical elements at Novi Sad’s vocational schools for mechanical engineering and later, industrial engineering.
A new passion developed: teaching kids how to build robots and having them compete among other high school/university students in the Eurobot competitions.
Jakica turned his class into a team, similar to forwards, midfielders and defenders– or fixos, alas and pivos. He assigned some kids to work on the design, others on the electrical aspect and another group on the mechanical side.
“It was a period of my life that I really enjoyed and miss a lot,” he said.
The principal at the new school was also a former gym teacher and knew of Dusan’s soccer background. He asked if Jakica could launch the futsal programs for the school and the former futsal pro soon started a team just for teachers and other teams with the kids.
For Dusan, the principles he applied in engineering also applied to teaching and coaching, especially on the futsal court.
“When I try to explain to players what they need to do, how they need to move, how they need to create space- this all comes from logical perspectives. You need to use logic when you play- it’s not a pure template,” he said. “Every aspect is important- body orientation, perception- especially when you talk about space, coordination, dynamic movement.
“And you need to make decisions. This is very important for any type of soccer. You have good players who can see two options in certain situations. And at the higher level you have players in the same situation, who can see four options.”
Jakica’s teams won on and off the court. He relaunched his former club, Đavo, under the name KFM Tvrđava and at the U-19 level began coaching the university team before becoming an assistant coach with Serbia’s Futsal National Team.
But the landscape changed again. Serbia and Montenegro became independent countries and the economic situation was difficult. The Jakicas were struggling. He knew there was only one option.
“I decided we had to move anywhere in the world where my family could have a normal life,” he said.
His wife Isidora, a psychologist, has Hungarian roots. They tried unsuccessfully to acquire citizenship in Hungary. He applied for jobs in Austria and the Netherlands, and for a time worked with a ship-building company from Norway.
In 2013, an uncle living in Florida suggested that Dusan look into the Department of State’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Each year the U.S. randomly grants thousands of visas- with U.S. permanent residency- to applicants who meet certain education or work requirements from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. The program is free.
Jakica submitted his application in November 2013. On May 1, 2014, his brother typed in the confirmation number on the State Department website with his family surrounding the computer.
“My wife read it out loud: ‘You have been randomly selected for the…,’ he recalls, choking up. “My brother started jumping and yelling. He explained to me that it meant we were approved for a green card- that we could move to the United States and have rights to work and live there.”
Word spread in the neighborhood.
Dragona Jandrich, a former classmate of Isidora’s in elementary school and of Dusan’s at university, was in town visiting from Minnesota. She offered her house near Minneapolis to the Jakicas to use while Dusan looked for work.
In December 2014, the Jakicas got their visas. Dusan, Isidora and daughters Inis and Nadja arrived at Dragona’s house in Edina, another Minneapolis suburb, on April 8, 2015. Their possessions fit into four suitcases.
“I don’t know how to express my gratitude. Without Dragana, we would not be here talking today,” he said.
Five weeks later, Phillips & Tembro offered Dusan a full-time job as a manufacturing engineer.
“It was like someone released all the built-up tension and stress from my body at one time. When I saw the offer…It was just, tears. I knew that from then on, our lives would completely flip.”