In a long conversation with SBS's Lucy Zelic, Sydney FC star Kosta Barbarouses shared a harrowing story of his time in Russia as a 21-year-old.
Source:
SBS The World Game
26 Nov 2019 - 2:13 PM  UPDATED 26 Nov 2019 - 2:13 PM

The full interview between Lucy Zelic and Kosta Barbarouses can be found here.

Barbarouses made the move to Russia in 2011 when second division side Alania Vladikavkaz signed him for a reported $600,000 transfer fee after a successful season at Brisbane Roar.

Vladikavkaz is located in the North Caucasus, an area of Russia that the Australian government's Department of Foreign Affairs recommends you 'do not travel to', and 'If you travel here despite the risks, get professional security advice'.

According to the Department's website, "there's a high threat of terrorism" and "kidnapping is common in parts of the Northern Caucasus."

Barbarouses witnessed this first hand. 

"Russia was tough. I went there as I'd just turned 21 and it was a bit of a strange move," the now-29-year-old told Zelic. 

"There is one pretty traumatic thing that I witnessed, I haven't told too many people, so I'll share it with you.

"I got a lift from one of the guys who worked at the club, he was one of the only guys that spoke English and I got along really well with him.

"He was giving me a lift back home after one of our games and I just asked him to leave me around the corner where there was a supermarket and I wanted to get a couple of things.

"So he took off, I got my stuff and I was walking back to my place and as I was walking one way, these two girls were walking the opposite direction and there were parked cars across the other side of the road facing us.

"I got to the corner of the street and the girls were about a hundred meters down the line and the headlights of one of the cars turned on and a guy jumped out of the car and actually took one of the girls. He had a mate in the car as well.

"The girl's friend was screaming as well, there's not much she could have done and I thought about intervening but I remember my mate telling me that most of those guys, they carry weapons, whether it's guns or knives so I thought against it.

"I didn't sleep too well that night. So the next day, I asked the guy at the club, I told him what happened and I said; 'what can we do? Can we call the police?'"

"He just said that happens sometimes and that the guy will take this girl to his family and they'll call her family and offer money for them to get married.

"That was the sort of place I was living in as a 21-year-old and that was tough, it sort of scarred me a little bit. Just how he normalized what I saw was a bit crazy to me and I didn't know how to comprehend that for a long time."

Barbarouses played 14 matches for the club, scoring twice, before moving to Greek side Panathinaikos on loan the next season. 

With hindsight, Barbarouse admits the move to Russia was a strange one and that he could have potentially gone to a league that suited him better.  

"Looking back now and that season at Brisbane, I was 20 mostly and scored 12 goals and I think now maybe with stronger management or somebody looking out maybe a bit better, I could have gone to a stronger league.

"It's a pretty big achievement now if somebody scores 12 goals at 20 years old but I went there and the club was in the second division and coming top and it seemed like a good stepping stone for me.

"Things didn't work out too well there, there was a lot of stuff behind the scenes going on; the coach was the chairman's son of the club, our chairman was a legend of Russian football, Gazzaev who coached CSKA Moscow - they won the Europa League, he's coached a national team of Russia, I think a couple of times but, he had his son as the first team coach, which didn't work out great.

"We had the best players, I think that's why we got promoted but even just the city, I felt like I was back in time about 20 years ago.