The Roar
The Roar


Adelaide United's teenage sensations, balancing school work with professional football

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Roar Guru
22nd March, 2023

Life as a professional footballer is a very brief one, statistics show it normally lasts between eight to eleven years and by the time it’s all over, many players are in a worse place financially than when they started.

It is important to have a qualification in a chosen field away from football when that time comes. As a result, many teenage footballers are balancing studies with playing professionally.

Part of the reason for Adelaide United’s success over the past few seasons and hopefully for many more to come, is how they instill a work ethic in the classroom for their teenage tyros.

Nestory Irankunda has had to constantly cope with fellow students, as well as teachers, at Parafield Gardens High School stopping him for a selfie and a chat. Musa Toure is following in the footsteps of his elder brothers at a school that has had a lot of talented footballers come through their doors, Underdale High School.

Nestory Irankunda is simply one of the most stunning football talents Australia has ever seen. (Photo by Sarah Reed/Getty Images)

Then there is the latest prodigy, 17-year-old Luka Jovanovic, who has quite the drive from his parent’s home in the western suburbs to get to Adelaide United’s training ground in the northern suburb of Playford.

Once he has completed training, it is another lengthy drive to study at Henley Beach High School. In peak hour traffic, that can be an hour and a half in transit.

It is not unusual for Jovanovic to arrive late to school, due to extra training sessions. The talented teen is then expected to study through the night until he goes to bed.


It is quite common for young Australian children with heritage from the Balkans to be self-taught by their fathers at an early age and it was no different in the Jovanovic household.

Luka’s dad was a striker for one of Serbian footballs biggest clubs, Partizan Belgrade and he honed his son’s skills in his infancy, particularly in terms of shooting and the movement required to be a striker.

Jovanovic has been well known to Adelaide United coaching staff since being a standout playing for Football South Australia’s NTC’s Under 13 side.

He looked set for his Adelaide United debut as a 16-year-old, only to be cruelly denied by an anterior cruciate ligament tear which saw him miss the entire 2021 season.

Jovanovic came back stronger and hungrier in 2022 and scored 12 goals in 22 matches for Adelaide United’s NPL side, before starting the 2023 season in blistering form, scoring 4 goals in 1 match.

After training with United’s A League squad for the better part of 12 months, Jovanovic finally got some luck in 2023, which came at the expense of teammates George Blackwood and Hiroshi Ibusuki, who both went down with injuries.


Jovanovic has bagged two goals in two matches and his dynamism, has allowed Adelaide to attack far more fluently.

Although not the tallest striker, Jovanovic is hard running and equally adept with both feet and has always had the ability of being in the right place at the right time. He also has the uncanny knack of improvising a shot when needed.

While his performances on the pitch are rightly being praised, it is his strong work ethic away from it that has really impressed Adelaide United coaching staff.

Jovanovic is always happy to pack up the equipment after training and work more on his shooting and positioning under the watchful eye of Australian club footballs greatest ever striker Damian Mori.

The coaching staff also expects Jovanovic and the several other talented high school attending players, to keep up with their studies and their grades; education is just as highly valued at Adelaide United as football ability.

It may seem like a punishment, but being a high school student trying to become a professional footballer in Australia is a privilege and not everyone is blessed with that opportunity.