Meet the Aussie centre-back starring in Serbia

Canberra product Marko Milutinovic is determined to make his name in Serbia after moving to Europe and bypassing the A-League.

Milutinovic has spent the past three years playing in Serbia after initially joining Belgrade-based club FK Bask as an 18-year-old. The defender has had short spells at four different clubs, but signed for OFK Beograd last July.

Now at one of the oldest and most well-regarded clubs in Serbia, the nursery that helped produce former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and Roma left-back Aleksandar Kolarov among others, Milutinovic is out to learn his trade.

“They’re one of the most famous clubs in Serbia,” Milutinovic told  The World Game.

“If you don’t really follow Serbian football, you wouldn’t really know them. In Serbia they’re one of the most famous clubs.

“It’s a good standard. I’m learning a lot. I’ve got older, more experienced players who have been helping me along the way. It’s a good experience.

“You’ve got a lot of young players who are really looking at it as a stepping stone to moving on. You’ve also got players who have played in top leagues around Europe.

“At the start I got a bit homesick. But it’s something you have to adjust to but I’m used to it now.”

Numerous Socceroos have starred for OFK Belgrade over the decades, including Milan Ivanovic, Branko Buljevic and Doug Utjesenonic in their formative years before moving to Australia.

High-profile players such as former Yugoslavia midflielder Ilija Petkovic, Serbian star Mitar Mrkela and also Wellington striker Andrija Kaluderovic all started their careers there.

The Serbian odyssey of Milutinovic, who was born and raised in the Australian capital, first began when he was scouted as a 14-year old. The centre back started his junior football with Woden Valley Soccer Club and was spotted while on a junior tour overseas.

“In 2011 with Woden Valley we went to Serbia and Sweden to play a cup competition,” he explained.

“We went to Partizan Belgrade before the tournament and I was scouted there. After that we stayed in contact with a person in Serbia and then we built it up over the years. That’s how it came to fruition.”

In 2013 Milutinovic debuted in the NPL Capital Football with Cooma FC’s first-team as a 17-year-old. He then headed to Europe, first linking with FK Bask’s youth team.

Miltutinovic admits the A-League was never really on his radar because of a lack of opportunity for players from the ACT.

“I never really had a way of getting a trial,” he said.

“It’s hard, especially in Canberra, for a lot of players. You’ve only really got Sydney, which is the closest. It’s hard in that sense.

“It was a dream to one day play in, not just in Europe, but anywhere. It was definitely my dream. I’m on the right track and it’s going good. It’s a grind but it’s definitely worth it.”

Able to play at right-back and in defensive midfield, as well as central defence, Milutinovic is contracted to OFK Beograd until the end of this season.

The 21-year-old, who grew up dreaming of wearing the green and gold, is keeping his options open as he seeks to help get his club promoted.

“I am happy here at the moment, but if something was to pop up you would always consider it,” he said.

“But I’m just really focusing on working hard, playing well and seeing what happens. It’s a good life experience, it’s good for my career.

“The Socceroos are something that even when I was a kid I’d always watch them, like in the 2006 World Cup, and hope I could make it that far. Hopefully, one day, you never know.”

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4 min read
Published 21 March 2018 at 11:30am
By John Davidson