Kosovo call-up rules Besart Berisha out of Brisbane-Melbourne match
Striker Besart Berisha has stunned Melbourne Victory in the run-in to the A-League finals by answering an international call from his country of birth, Kosovo.
Berisha will head to Europe to represent the Balkan country next month in a World Cup qualifier against fellow minnows Iceland, leaving Victory without his services for a date against former club Brisbane.
"For me, it's a very exciting time ... I was born there and they need my help so I think it's time to go," Berisha said on Thursday.
The 31-year-old is no stranger to international football.
He played for Albania in qualifiers for the 2008 European Championships and 2010 World Cup.
In a last-ditch bid, Berisha also signalled his interest in representing Albania in last year's Euro 2016 tournament but did not travel.
World football body FIFA has relaxed usually stringent requirements around playing for a second nationality for Kosovo.
The tiny country won independence in 2008 and the national team is making its first effort to qualify for the World Cup.
Their hopes of reaching Russia already look shot, with three losses from their opening qualifiers against Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine.
Berisha says he's excited over the adventure.
"It looks like I'm going to go for my first game to play for Kosovo," he said.
"For me, it's a very exciting time and I hope I have a great game.
"What's most important now ... I have three more games here and I want to focus on that."
In the three games before his departure -- against Adelaide this week, a trip to leaders Sydney FC and then back at home to Perth -- Berisha could set a new milestone.
His brace in Victory's 3-0 win over Central Coast last Sunday has him just a hat trick away from reaching a century of A-League goals.
He said he wanted to hit the 100 -- mainly so people would stop asking him about it.
"I'd like to make sure I reach it as fast as possible so that it's done," he said.
"I expect this question every time. I'm focused on my games coming up ... as a leader of Melbourne Victory, I like to win the games and make sure we pick up the points."