'Why aren’t I good enough?’: Bentleigh’s FFA Cup hero reveals how his moment finally arrived

For most of his life, Marco Jankovic’s dreams of playing professional football were sullied by self-doubt and burdened by the weight of his family name.

But after an FFA Cup showing for the ages in Bentleigh Greens’ historic 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix in the Round of 32 last night, there can be no doubt that the 22-year-old is thriving like never before.

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The rangy centre half is the son of former Real Madrid, Red Star Belgrade and Yugoslavia midfielder Milan Jankovic, a La Liga Champion who plied his trade for Los Blancos before moving to Cairns in 1991.

Jankovic senior teamed up with an array of household names at the Santiago Bernabeu including Michel and Hugo Sanchez as Madrid stormed to the 1987/88 title with 95 goals.

But the story of his son’s performance at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex last night could just as easily be passed down through the generations.

The son of a Los Blancos icon

Jankovic has successfully stepped out of the grand shadow cast by his father’s reputation, which has proven to be a double-edged sword throughout his life and career.

“It’s good and bad,” Jankovic told the FFA Cup official website.

“It’s obviously something people talk about so naturally it’s going to come up.

“But my dad’s never put too much pressure on me in regard to what he’s done and what I should be doing - he’s always just said you have to do the best that you can do, and that’s it.”

It sounds easy, but it has never been straightforward for Jankovic.

Adolescence can be an unsteady time at best, and his father’s name often made him a target of belittlement in the schoolyard.

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As a result, self-doubt began to fester.

“For me it was always a kind of personal mental battle to get over it and focus on myself.

“To play for probably the biggest club in the world is something that you think ‘why am I not like that? Why aren’t I that good enough?’”

Jankovic holds the Dockerty Cup aloft in July. Bentleigh beat Heidelberg 2-0 in the final.

A turning point

Jankovic was born four years after his father had pulled the curtain down on his playing career and settled in Cairns.

When the family moved to Brisbane in Jankovic’s mid-teens, he attempted to model his father’s rise to distinction with more force. But it would soon prove to be the boiling point in the mental roadblock that had inhibited his ambition.

“To play for probably the biggest club in the world is something that you think ‘why am I not like that? Why aren’t I that good enough?’”

After completing his high school studies Jankovic trialled at Red Star Belgrade, the historic epitome of Serbian football, where his father had made over 150 appearances in the 1980’s.

“I think I played two or three trial games for Red Star and they just kind of told me you know, I wasn’t good enough basically, and to go and trial somewhere else,” he said.

“I think that was probably the point where I was like yeah I can’t really follow my Dad’s footsteps because that’s how he did it he started off and he played there and got better.

“I guess that was the point where I said, ‘I’m doing this for myself, I’m not doing it for him’, so whatever happens now doesn’t’ really matter.”

What's next for the Bentleigh defender?

Four years on, Bentleigh’s FFA Cup hero is firmly on his own path and the trajectory is on pointing skyward after playing the starring role in the biggest match of his career so far.

Jankovic is studying Criminology at Burwood’s Deakin University, but says the Hyundai A-League is now the next target in his sights.

 “I think if you’re not striving to be better or play at the highest level you’re doing something wrong.

“I’ve always had that attitude where I want to be playing at the highest level possible that’s why I train so hard and work so hard personally, to try and get myself ready for that level.

“I’d love the opportunity to be part of a Hyundai A-League side.”

Maybe now, Jankovic is close to getting his chance. And from there, who knows?