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It doesn't always need to be the UK: The three young Aussies forging their European football paths in Montenegro

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Roar Guru
24th August, 2023

Australia and Montenegro have always had a very strong connection with each other when it comes to football.

Former Socceroo and South Melbourne legend Mehmet Durakovic was born In Montenegro, while one of the best goalkeepers who was eligible to represent Australia but never did, Sasa Ilic, has been living there for over a decade.

Montenegro surprisingly is one of the only countries yet be represented in the A League, although Red Star Belgrade centre back Savo Pavićević had a deal in place to play for Perth in 2012, before it dramatically collapsed.

However, there are three young Australians hoping to finally get their European football journey under way in Montenegro.

Enzo Campana & Domenico Velardi were playing football in the Victorian NPL only 2 seasons ago before realising their dreams of going to Europe – the pair signed for Zlatibor Čajetina in the Serbian first division.

While the transfers to Serbia may appear very random, especially compared to the majority of young Australians moving to the United Kingdom in recent times – It’s all down to the connections at the academy Campana & Velardi graduated from, Futbal First.

Futbal First was formed in 2013 and based in Melbourne, specialising in both the outdoor and indoor version of the sport. Nebojsa Stojkovic is the academy Head Coach while Nebojsa Pejic is in charge of the futsal curriculum.

From a footballing point of view Serbia is a great first step to European football – there’s a high level of technical skills and coaching techniques, underrated compared to the larger European nations.

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(Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

However Serbia, like the other countries in the Balkans; can be a very difficult place for any young Australian who isn’t aware of the culture or how things work in eastern Europe.

Besides having to cope with the language barrier there is the organised crime element, political issues, clashes with fans & underhanded dealings by board members.

Campana and Velardi had contrasting fortunes at Zlatibor – Campana saw regular game time, whilst Velardi barely took his training bib off, in a disastrous season for the relegated club.

The Aussie duo have since left and joined a new club together, travelling 200 miles to the picturesque country south of Serbia – Montenegro, signing for FK Jesdinstvo.

FK Jedinstvo may not be the largest club in the Montenegrin first division. but they had a solid season in 22/23 – finishing 5th and narrowly missing out on the Europa conference league qualifying rounds.


The club plays out of the town of Bijelo Polje, which is known more for its breathtaking postcard views of the mountains, forests and hills rather than its football side.

Being based in such a small town should allow the boys to concentrate on playing football, away from Montenegro’s strong criminal underbelly.

After Yugoslavia disintegrated in the early 1990’s, organised crime established deep lying roots in Montenegro.

Given its location on the coast, Montenegro is well known as a transit point – with the Skaljari & Kovac neighbourhoods of Kotor infamous for their violence and definitely places to avoid.

In recent seasons the Montenegrin league has been dominated by Buducnost Podgorica & Sutjeska – it has been nearly a decade since a different club hoisted the trophy.

FK Jedinstvo are not expected to break up that duopoly in 23/24, however Enzo Campana is getting match time while Domenico Velardi is still waiting for his chance.

The side have begun the season slowly and sit just above the relegation places in a very competitive Montenegrin first division this campaign.


If Campagna & Velardi need any advice they can always call 24-year-old Burkino Faso born centreback Yannick Dao, who qualifies to play for Australia through citizenship.

Dao lives in the country’s capital of Podgorica, which is famous for its architecture, cuisine & nightlife.

The 6”3” centreback will be hoping his FK Podgorica side are able to win promotion from Montenegro’s second division.

All three Australians have different hopes and goals for their football in a beautiful country, which also has a very dangerous underworld.