Jovanovic in search for recognition

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Australian youngster Aleksander Jovanovic is hoping his form for K League club side Jeju United will bring him the “publicity” needed to take him out of obscurity.

The defender is on the cusp of ending another successful season in Korea’s topflight but despite his growing reputation in Korean football, the 25-year-old’s online presence is one of misinformation.

“I’ve never been to Melbourne. That’s the actual fact,” the Sydney born Jovanovic says referencing the error with his place of birth on his Wikipedia profile page.

The Sydney-sider began his career with APIA Leichhardt Tigers in the west of Sydney spending a total of six years, between the ages of six and twelve, before moving north to play for former National Soccer League (NSL) side Northern Spirit.

The youngster excelled through the ranks at Spirit, growing in leadership roles and gaining a winning mentality at such a young age.

“I happened to captain that (under 12’s) team,” Jovanovic says, “We went the season undefeated.”

The defender showed early on in his career the potential he was to unearth. Jovanovic would leave the now defunct Northern Spirit for a move to Parramatta Melita at the tender age of 16, making the next step of progression in his short career.

“We won that season [with the Parramatta Melita] under-20’s,” Jovanovic says.

A move to the country of his forefathers, Serbia, wasn’t far away for the youngster, leaving to try his hand at European football two days after completing his high-school education.

But before the move to Serbia a private trainer helped instigate the transfer.

“There was a private trainer in Australia, Dusan Purac, from Manly and he has a lot of contacts in Serbia,” the Jeju United defender said.

“He managed to get a hold of an agent who organised a trial at FK Vojvodina.”

But what happened next gave the young man a tough decision to make – a move abroad or youth national team birth?

“There was a mix up between the trial with FK Vojvodina or play to for the Australian schoolboys,” he said.

“[Both] were on at the same time, but I selected to go to the trial at FK Vojvodina.”

But the settling in period for Jovanovic wasn’t as smooth as some may expect. The Sydney born Jovanovic didn’t speak the language finding it difficult to adjust initially.

“When I first arrived I didn’t know how to speak the language, which was a bit of a challenge,” he said.

“But a lot of the people there who were very kind and had a good sense of humour.

“So it was pretty easy to pick up the language.”

The transfer to Serbian club FK Vojvodina was followed by loan moves to smaller sides in Serbia’s second division. Jovanovic waited patiently for his chance in the top-tier of Serbian domestic football and was rewarded with the taste of top-flight football with Hajduk Kula in 2011.

“Football wise [in Serbia] was an eye-opener, the game is played very differently, very tactical,” the defender said.

“The first couple of years I was sent out on loan to a few of the lower division teams.

“Towards the end of my stay I managed to play in the top league, I made my debut against Red Star Belgrade which was very exciting.”

The experience was short-lived with limited game time on offer for the young Australian, so he looked to Asia for his next adventure.

“An agent got in touch with me saying there’s an opportunity in Asia, and while I was in Serbia I didn’t feel I could go any further,” he said.

“When the agent got in touch with me I saw that as an opportunity, sort of a new start with five years in Serbia.

“I saw Asia as a new start and hopefully go to bigger and better things.”

A move to Thailand with BEC Tero Sasana was where the youngster would find himself next, but after a season with the Thai Premier League side where he helped them to their best finish in more than a decade Jovanovic was on the move yet again.

This time he was signed up by K League outfit Suwon FC, where he spent a season before making the move to Jeju United.

With two years in Korean football, a steady climb in the leagues through Thailand and Korea, Jovanovic was able to excel this season. Featuring in a number of team of the weeks, and the team of the season from rounds 1 to 30.

“I think [my season’s] gone pretty well, I’ve been in nine team of the weeks,” he said.

“I feel like I’m improving with the boys and hopefully push for an Asian Champions League place.”

The 25-year-old “feel[s] the Asian Champions League will bring more publicity” and possibly coverage from the Australian media as well as all parts of Asia.

“As a footballer the more people know you the better it is for yourself,” Jovanovic said.

“At first at Jeju, not many people knew about me, and I still think not many know me that should.”

The young centre-back is very adamant about his ambitions in the national team being “very strong” and working towards winning his first cap.

“Ambitions [for the national team] are very strong and I’m hopeful something will come up very soon,” he said.

“As I said I’ve been in team of the weeks from 1 to 30. I don’t know what else I can do to show I have the ability and potential.”

Socceroos’ boss Ange Postecoglou watched Jovanovic in action for Jeju United prior to the World Cup.

“I know that Ange [Postecoglou] came to watch our game against Gyeongnam FC where Luke DeVere plays,” he said.

“But I’ve never spoken to him.”

Ahmed Yussuf

ahmed mag pic Ahmed is a Melbourne-based writer, and one of the founders of Football Central. He's written in football culture magazine Thin White Line and others, and along with writing puff pieces, he hosts and produces podcasts in association with Football Central.  You can follow him on Twitter: @ahmedyussuf10

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