Melbourne Victory will host the Phoenix this Halloween in a rare Monday night fixture, but expect there to be no scares on the pitch — with many players all too familiar with their opposition.
Gui Finkler and original Wellington player Kosta Barbarouses return to their old stomping ground to face a side that now boasts a returnee of their own — former Nix product Marco Rojas.
Oh Marco, how you were loved in New Zealand. We gave you your start. We watched you grow.
Then, in 2011, after only 21 games and two goals for the Phoenix, you left to play for the Melbourne Victory.
We were all invested in you. We loved the way you played, the passion and pace you brought to the wing. We loved the way you had fun and were able to breeze past players like they were not even there. You were the new breed, a homegrown talent who was destined for Phoenix greatness. Your chance came all because of the Yellow Fever’s ‘Retro Ricki Youth Scholarship’. Perhaps the eventual defection was written in the stars, as you made your debut against the Victory in 2009.
You were named our young player of the year on the 22nd of February 2011, and on the 28th you declined to sign a new contract. You used us.
Even worse, you played two seasons for the Victory and finished with 15 goals in 50 games and the Johnny Warren Medal in 2012–13. Now they are the team you have rejoined for the 2016–17 season (after three years of European football where your total appearances were less than your 50 games over two seasons in Melbourne).
From the start us Kiwi’s saw something in you. Ricki gave you a two-year contract and handed you an A League debut at the tender age of 17, the second youngest debutant for the Nix behind Barbarouses. Yet you turn your back on the homeland again in 2016?
It is interesting that you decided to return to the Victory as Barbarouses returns to Wellington. He was signed to replace you when you moved on from the Victory too, when you went to Stuttgart and got injured. Clearly Melbourne could not do without a classy kiwi winger, and neither can we.
It is a pity you left Melbourne when it seemed you could do no wrong. Now you are back and it is like you never left the league. You are scoring goals again, having fun again. Still starting every game for the All Whites. It seems the only thing that has changed is your accent.
You say you have no regrets after your European excursion, after playing for teams like SpVgg Greuther Furth, VfB Stuttgart II (you never played for the first team) and FC Thun — but that is doubtful. You should have stayed in the A-League a bit longer but you could not wait. You had to move on. Again.
So Marco, enjoy your temporary ‘home’ in Melbourne for now. Hopefully you keep doing things like this for your country and for the Victory (just not against the Nix, okay?).
Maybe soon you will come back to your true home. To the fans that gave you your start. To the only full professional side in your home country.
It is where you belong, and it is your destiny to be part of the first A-League title winning team New Zealand ever has. You can do it Marco — you just have to dig deep to find where your loyalties truly lie.
One day you will be pulling that black and yellow jersey over your head again, and you will see that Phoenix on your chest and it will give you that same swell of pride as when you see that silver fern.
On that day, and only on that day, will our ‘Kiwi Messi’ finally be home.