'I wanted to break up the contract': How 200-game Berisha almost gave up on adventure down under

Besart Berisha says he came close to tearing up his contract with Brisbane Roar before arriving in Australia to make his Hyundai A-League debut.

Two hundred games and three clubs later, however, the now-Australian citizen couldn’t dream of a life without his adopted country he now calls home.

Berisha’s current club Western United travel to VU Whitten Oval to face Adelaide United on Sunday evening (6:00pm AEDT).

In the first-ever game between the two sides, and the first Hyundai A-League fixture to be played at the venue, Berisha will notch his 200th appearance in the competition.

PREVIEW: Western United v Adelaide United
MORE: Berisha’s defining Hyundai A-League moments ahead of game 200

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It’s been a long journey for the Hyundai A-League’s all-time leading goalscorer, who made his bow in the league for the Roar against Central Coast Mariners in October, 2011.

But his Hyundai A-League journey almost ended before it began.

“There was a moment where I wanted to break up the contract before I came to Brisbane,” Berisha said.

“I was a bit nervous and scared.

“My wife pushed me and said ‘no, we cannot do that’, and I’m so glad that my wife helped me with this decision to keep going with the trip.

“I am forever thankful, I thought I was just going to play for seven months and return back to Europe but I just fell in love, I felt home in Australia already in the first year.

“I wanted to continue here.”

Besart Berisha; Mitch Nichols
Berisha celebrating goal number one of his 124 to date in the Hyundai A-League

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Bushfire relief

After discovering a sense of place in a new country, Berisha went on to reap the rewards from his decision to stay.

In three seasons with the Roar and four with Melbourne Victory, Berisha amassed four Championships, two Premierships and an FFA Cup title.

Berisha spent one season away from the Hyundai A-League but returned with new boys Western United for the 2019/20 campaign, and he picked up where he left off. With eight goals to his name so far this season, Berisha has taken his Hyundai A-League goal tally to 124, the most of any player in the league’s history.

But the 34-year-old hasn’t just thrived on the pitch in Australia – Berisha’s love of the country extends beyond the stadiums and training grounds to such an extent where he decided to become an Australia citizen.

And as he says himself, the decision to do so was a simple one.

“The chance came for me to become an Australian citizen, it was really easy for me,” Berisha said.

“This country helped me in the toughest moments in my career, returning here everyone had open arms for me and my family.

“If I can give back something in football to this country and help grow this game, I would love to do this.

“I am a very competitive player on the field and I want to win every game, but privately I’m a person who loves to give a hand when people need me or need help.

“I ask myself the question ‘can you not also be that nice in the game?’ but this is me, I don’t fake it, I just love and am passionate about this game.

“I love winning games.”

Besart Berisha
Berisha's time in Australia has been laden with silverware

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After returning to Australia for the 2019/20 Hyundai A-League campaign, Berisha is back in his element, scoring goals for fun and guiding his side up the table in the process.

United sit in fifth place heading into Round 16 with the chance to create a buffer between themselves and Adelaide United in sixth with a win on Sunday.

Looking ahead to the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign, Berisha has full confidence in what his team can achieve should they maintain their strong grip on a place in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.

“What I see in Western United is hungry players and hungry team,” Berisha said.

“If we can make it until the end and stay in the playoff positions I think we’re going to be dangerous. Hopefully we can continue playing the football we did so far.”

Besart Berisha
Berisha hopes United will launch into the 2019/20 Hyundai A-League finals series

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Sunday, 26 January 2020
Kick-off: 6pm AEDT
Venue: Whitten Oval
Broadcast: FOX Sports 505
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports