In a new segment on, we’ve teamed up with Melbourne-based photographer, Aleksander Jason, to capture photo essays of our professional players. And what better way to capture them – enjoying one of Australia’s favourite pastimes, drinking coffee at the local café – talking life and football, football and life. Hence, Copa Coffee. In our first edition, we caught up with Melbourne-born and bred defender Ivan Franjic, who recently secured a move to Perth Glory, at Melbourne’s Code Black. Ivan’s story is like many enjoyed (and endured) by Australian footballers.

One of hope, dreams, sacrifice, pain, disappointment, resurrection and achievement. But in itself, it’s as unique as they come…

Ivan remembers the frosty mornings at Meadow Park Eagles as vividly as the moment he lived out his dream at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá, Brazil. 

Reminiscing on a turbulent career, he considers himself lucky. He’s carved out a successful career as a professional footballer, when that very nearly didn’t happen at all. 

He’s played for his country at the sport’s pinnacle tournament, won the Asian Cup in front of friends and family, and had the chance to test himself overseas. But he’s had to deal with adversity, frustration, heartbreak and a serious heart condition. And bounced back, time and again.

“The memories that I hold close are the weekend games when my family would drive, no matter how far, just to see me on the pitch for 90 minutes.”

From those days with the Eagles, Melbourne Knights and St Albans Saints, it was clear Ivan had potential. In between moving bricks and timber on school holidays with his father Franjo, Ivan’s passion was football. His family taught him the importance of discipline and hard work and encouraged him to take up a carpentry apprenticeship. 

When he started to crack the senior teams at the Saints, the Knights and then Oakleigh Cannons, he was forced to consider his future. At that time competing in a semi-professional competition, he had to balance his emerging football career with his apprenticeship. He’d wake up at 5am and not get home until 11pm. It was clearly tolling on him and he almost gave his football career away.

That was until Brisbane Roar threw him a lifeline on an injury contract in August 2009.

“Becoming a professional footballer is not easy, in Australia or overseas. It takes hard work and determination. For me, I got my lucky break and thankfully played my first professional game at the age of 22 and haven’t looked back”

It was a sliding doors moment. Incredibly, having come to that crossroad, Ivan has enjoyed a remarkable career full of personal highlights. He’s won the A-League Premiership twice, the Championship three times, the FFA Cup, the Asian Cup, played in the World Cup in Brazil and was named in the PFA’s Team of the Decade (2005-2015).

“The Asian Cup was a special moment – to win it on home soil meant a lot more – with my family and friends and the entire country watching. Being a part of that team is another memory I will never forget, from my days at St Albans to my 20 caps for my country.”

Despite his achievements, there’s always been a cross road or hurdle to overcome. The most challenging? On a cold Melbourne night in August 2016, awoken by severe chest pain, Ivan ended up in hospital for six days.

“I didn’t know if I was ever going to play this beautiful game again.”

Ivan was suffering from a rare inflammatory condition affecting his heart, myocarditis, brought on by a virus.

“My heart condition was a big set back. For a good three months I had to avoid any cardio.  The thought that I may never play football again, let alone not being anywhere near a football pitch, got to me. I made sure to stay mentally strong.”

“You don’t realise how important something is until you are so close to losing everything.

“It was tough at the time as I didn’t know what the future was going to hold, it was a day to day process, but I just thank God I was able to get back on the pitch and enjoy what I love doing.”

Two years on from his condition and after making the switch from East to West, from Brisbane to Perth, Ivan most recently featured in a pre-season friendly against Premier League side Chelsea. The move, he says, has been another positive in his storied career.

“I have settled in well, the boys have been very welcoming in showing me around. It was great to play against Chelsea. It was a good test for us to see how we are progressing as a team and what areas we need to improve on collectively.  It was amazing to see over 55,000 people turn up, especially as it was terrible weather all day. Perth have a big football community and they are starving for success.”

As for Ivan’s favourite coffee?

“A latte.”

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