Far away from the uncertainty and angst surrounding the future of the Central Coast Mariners, Gosford academy product Joey Jevtic is making an impression with one of Serbia’s oldest clubs, OFK Beograd.
Though currently residing in the nation’s third tier, Belgrade-based OFK were in the top echelon as recently as 2016 and count superstars like Branislav Ivanovic and Aleksandar Kolarov amongst their alumni.
They also have a triangular player pathway agreement in place with the Mariners and Maltese outfit Balzan FC.
Newcastle-raised 19-year-old midfielder Jevtic holds a Serbian passport through his parents, and caught the eye in a handful of senior appearances for OFK before COVID-19 struck.
When fellow Mariners product Jake Jovanovski cut short his OFK stint to return home when the pandemic erupted, Jevtic stayed put to battle it out.
Speaking before Central Coast owner Mike Charlesworth’s announcement this week that he will withdraw financial support from the club, Jevtic told The World Game: “There are just so many more opportunities here in Europe - and it’s where you want to be for football.
“OFK is a big club with a big history and I’m hoping it will happen again.
“The quality here is higher and I’m happy to keep pressing on.
“The U-19s play in the top league for their age bracket and are one of the better sides.
“I’m just focused on making it over here and hopefully there'll be some interest at some stage from a top division team down the line.
“I think I’m in a good position for my age.”
Whilst the first team have yet to return to action after the shutdown, the U-19s are up and running again, with Jevtic front and centre of that line-up.
He’s yet to feature for Australia at any level but has already caught the eye of Serbian national team scouts.
But he’s not obsessing too much on where his international future might lie.
“It’s really all about club football right now,” he said.
“If you do well there things will come, whether that’s from the Australian or Serbian side of things.
“Being an Australian playing in Belgrade, the news gets around pretty easily.
“I just want to start playing regularly again and these things will happen on their own.”
OFK’s sporting director Vladimir Simovic, once Red Star Belgrade’s chief scout, believes the club offers a perfect cradle for emerging Australian players.
“Serbia has been one of the top 10 exporters of players in the world and is a very good place for them to come and develop,” Simovic said.
“The right sort of players from Australia can use this as a stage where they’re playing in front of stands full of scouts from all over Europe.
“In Joey's case - he arrived here with Jake in January - he’s decided to stay on during a difficult time, with his family back in Australia.
“I really admire this kid... he’s overcome a lot of hurdles and he’s shown a lot of character and willingness to learn.
“He’s a superstar for the U-19s and a regular for the first team and is gaining valuable experience.
“Of course if players like him and others are eventually sold on there’s a financial benefit also for the Mariners (with a percentage of the transfer fee).”