Besart Berisha defies odds to star for Roar
Albanian international striker Besart Berisha actually began life in a town called Prestina, the largest city in the Kosovo region of former Yugoslavia.
Born on 29 July 1985 in Kosovo, the 26-year-old striker has had to surmount a number of hurdles and daunting setbacks en route to establishing a professional career in the game of football.
At just seven years of age, he and his family had to flee the war with Albania and ended up in Germany, initially finding accommodation at a refugees’ centre in Berlin. Many of Besart’s friends and relatives were not so lucky and ended up as one of the many casualties from the growing explosion of Balkan conflicts and atrocities around that time.
Having learned little more than how to kick a football around a dusty camp site, football provided a vital emotional outlet for the young Berisha and he was good at it too.
It was clear the young striker bristled with talent, and the breakthrough came with Tennis Borussia Berlin Football Club, where he finished leading scorer in the U-19 Bundesliga in 2004 with 20 goals from 26 appearances.
A number of Bundesliga clubs scouts took notice of the achievement and he signed his first professional football contract with Hamburger SV.
Berisha may have been the very proud owner of a professional contract with Hamburg, but he still wasn’t a German citizen or even a legal resident of the country.
In normal circumstances, he and his family would have been deported out of Germany, but because of his mother’s illness and being refugees from war torn Kosovo, his family was given a temporary reprieve and permission to stay in the short term.
In order to qualify for an official residence permit, Berisha had to leave Hamburg and decided to return to Pristina and apply for Serbian citizenship. But following the war, Kosovo was in ruins, government order was not yet restored and the process was fraught with delays and corruption.
Besart eventually returned to Germany and was granted a one-year residency permit and the chance to play for Hamburg. The lengthy absence and confinement had caused him to miss the pre-season and the club decided to assign him to the Hamburg SV reserves who played in the German third division north.
His bad luck didn’t end there, his restricted residency terms meant he was not even eligible to appear for the Hamburg second team, so they had to loan him out to Danish top flight outfit Aalborg BK for the second half of the 2004-5 season. He then played for Aalborg’s rivals AC Horsens in 2005-6. The striker gained valuable experience and match practice with both clubs.
“We played with a single striker in Horsens, and I learnt to look after myself,” Berisha recalls. His 11 goals helped the club avoid relegation, before he returned to Hamburg SV at the start of the 2005-06 season and eventually took up a long-awaited place in the first-team squad. Finally Besart was able to play in the Bundesliga for Hamburg.
Besart Berisha had already won some of the toughest battle of his life and he was now ready for the breakthrough on the field of play and his childhood in war-torn Kosovo.
Although born in Kosovo and having been a part of the war against Albania and the subsequent Kosovan civil war, Besart Berisha becomes an Albanian citizenship in September 2006, qualifying through his ancestral ties.
Berisha manages to play just 11 games for the Hamburg first team scoring only two goals before he gets a surprise call up to the Albanian national team – his life goes almost the full circle back to the land of his ancestors.
He played his first game for Albania on 11 October 2006 against the Netherlands. He scored his first international goal for Albania on 25 May 2007, during a friendly match with England B played at Turf Moor, in Burnley, England, where he showed impressive form and was the Albanian man of the match.
Berisha’s performance against England B at Burnley at only 22 years of age impressed the English scouts so much that he joined the Clarets in a £375,000 switch from German side Hamburg SV.
But the bad luck followed him and a serious knee injury in an Albanian friendly match in the USA before the season even started ended his first year at Burnley on the sidelines in crutches. In the two years at Burnley he didn’t play a single first team game and was loaned out to Rosenborg and Horsens again, where in 21 appearances, he scored 11 goals.
On 5 August 2009, Berisha completed a move back to Germany, joining second division Bundesliga side Arminia Bielefeld where he made 28 appearances in two seasons scoring just two goals.
In the meantime Besart was recalled to the Albanian national team and has made 17 appearances and scored two goals for them thus far.
One of Besart’s team mates at Bielefeld and good friend was Socceroo Dario Vidosic and that’s the Brisbane Roar connection. Dario’s dad Rado of course, is the Brisbane Roar’s assistant coach and was put on to Besart by his son Dario.
Young Vidosic could see the enormous talent in Berisha and realised that it was only bad luck and untimely injuries that were stopping Besart from becoming a star striker in the Bundesliga. And the asking price was good value if he was to realise that potential and stay injury free.
On 16 August 2011, Brisbane Roar manager Ange Postecoglou announced that Berisha has agreed a one year deal with the 2010–11 A-League champions.
Berisha has already made a big mark on the A-League and scored his first goal for Brisbane in Round 2 against Sydney FC. Berisha then starred with four goals in a 7-1 thrashing against Adelaide United and ironically against his old team mate Dario in Round 4. He’s currently the leading goal scorer in the A-league for 2011.
He’s also a very good striker and is providing the Roar and the A-League with the sort of goal scoring entertainment that he has always wanted to give the fans.
Editor’s note: This piece has been updated following information provided by Brisbane Roar.
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