He is hated by opposition fans throughout the A-League yet he is the player virtually every fan would love to have playing for their team. The man in question is Besart Berisha.
Berisha is undoubtedly the best foreign striker to lay in the A-League. Some would argue that in terms of results he is the best foreigner full stop.
Berisha was by all accounts an outstanding junior player. The Kosovo born Berisha who has represented Albania won the national youth league’s golden boot, outclassing future Germany strikers, Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski. Yet while their careers soared he struggled to make his mark in the Bundesliga and then was plagued by injury. It was Ange Postecoglou, who knows a thing or two about spotting talent who gave hime the chance to resurrect his career at Brisbane Roar and he has not looked back. In fact he has turned his back on Albania preferring to stay in Australia than represent the national team.
Berisha is in some ways a far better commodity than some of the higher profile imports as he polarises opinion. He creates talking points. What is more he plays with real passion. His is not a passion created for television cameras or to keep the crowd happy. It is real, genuine and stems from his desire to win every game he plays in. His work rate up front be it for Brisbane Roar or Melbourne Victory is far superior to many of the other strikers in the league.
Yet that desire to win sees him push the boundaries and that is why he is hated by opposing fans. He is not averse to taking a tumble in order to win a penalty or a free kick that should never have been awarded; as was the case against Perth Glory at the weekend.
No doubt Victory fans and Berisha himself will tell you that he will do what he has to do to win a game. Yet in a country where sports fans profess to liking to see fair play he has fans in an uproar; although in cricket they easily forget such an ethos.
It was said following the Socceroos 2006 exit from the World Cup that the team was naive; Lucas Neill going to ground in the penally area and allowing Fabio Grosso the option to fall over him and win a penalty. Maybe ten years on the game is still naive, although Ante Covic had to challenge at the weekend and did everything right, and yet was penalised with a yellow card and a penalty against his side; such is a goalkeeper’s lot.
It would be interesting to analyse who the serial divers are and have been in the A-League. The results may show that most of the sinners are in fact the imported players who continue to exploit the naive challenges of the home grown players. Although there is no concrete evidence to back up such a statement. Certainly Alessandro del Piero is one who springs to mind along with Perth Glory’s Sidnei.
The Review Panel were supposed to have taken a look at the controversial penalty on Monday night, and if they deemed that Berisha had dived the could have taken action, but that would have set a precedent, that they would have struggled to keep on top of. Every single team in the A-League has had or currently has a player who goes to ground far too easily.
Should it be the job of the administrators to come down hard on players who con referees? Or should the players start becoming smarter in the way they go into challenges and limit the opportunities for such players to cheat? Once again it is important to stress that Covic could not be blamed for the dive that resulted from his challenge, as he had no other options available.
There is no doubt the game can do without controversial moments such as this, and it is not good that Besart Berisha seems to frequently be involved in such moments. Can the League afford to ban a player who genuinely brings people through the turnstiles? If they ban him will they have the courage to ban others who dive or feign injury? Should the coaching staff take control of the situation? Would they? After all to them a win is a win, and all their bosses and fans want is three points. The game is about results, and sometimes coaches, fans, and players do not care how they get them.
Does Fabio Grosso ever stop for a moment when he looks at his World Cup winners medal and think he should not have fallen over Lucas Neill’s leg? Very doubtful that he does, all he looks at is the outcome, he won the World Cup.
Berisha is a winner, his record in Australia speaks for itself three A-League Championships in four seasons. Love him or hate him in these early years of the A-League he is the player every team would want playing for them, that is why opposition fans hate him so much. He is a player the A-League needs. Is there truly a striker to compare with him?
Even when he knows he may have dived, he has the steely coolness of a predator to pick the ball up place it on the penalty spot and drill it past the goalkeeper. That is a man whose sole focus is on winning the game, and doing whatever it takes. Unfortunately for Perth fans he does it against them rather too often.
One thing is clear Besart Berisha is the most wanted man in Australia, for his crimes against opposition and because every team would love him to be playing for them.