Melbourne Victory will be without goal scoring maestro, Besart Berisha, for at least one crucial fixture at the pointy end of this year's A-League season after the Kosovo-born star answered the call of his homeland to return for their inaugural world cup qualifier against Iceland on March 24th. As a result he will see miss Victory's all-important clash with the fourth-placed, Brisbane Roar.
"At this stage it looks like I'm going to go - my first game to play for Kosovo," Berisha said. "So for me it's a very exciting time because I decided to go and I hope I have a great time."
Berisha was born in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, before his family fled the constant violence and unrest for east Berlin as a child. There Berisha grew up in a one-bedroom Soviet-era commission flat where he literally played football for he and his family's life. Had he not succeeded in turning professional he believed there was a chance they could be sent back to Kosovo where civil war beckoned.
"I really had the situation where maybe they will send us back to Kosovo, so, you know, at 17 I was really…I need to score goals. Because when I am 18, I have to sign a professional contract," he told the Guardian back in 2013.
"I had one year to show myself, because back then, it was so tough for a non-German to play at a high level, to get to a professional club as a foreigner, and I really put everything into [that] one year and it was crazy.
"So I really had a dream, a dream which wouldn't let me go and kept saying 'train, train, train'. I really appreciated that time, that I never gave up, because I don't know what [I would] do without football," he said.
With Kosovo not yet registered by FIFA, Berisha was forced to join the long list of his countrymen representing alternative nations, playing in 17 internationals for Albania. In 2016 Kosovo were finally accepted by FIFA and now stand a very distant chance of qualifying for the Russia World Cup in 2018. Berisha, who is currently having his best season yet in the A-League, will no doubt be a key part of their plans.