Zac Anderson remembers well his Dubai debut in 2016, a brutal reminder the Aussie defender was no longer in the A-League “bubble” as he puts it.
The Sunshine Coast product may have played seven years in the A-League at Gold Coast United, the Mariners - where he won a championship - and Sydney FC, but at Emirates Club in the UAE, he was just another foreigner brought in to fix a problem.
In the Falcons’ case, a leaky defence.
But off the pitch, Anderson’s recollections reflect the pecking order at big foreign clubs owned and funded by powerful, rich businesspeople.
“The easiest part of my week I say is playing the 90 minutes,” Anderson tells FTBL when asked about his move from Sydney FC to the Arabian Gulf League.
“Understanding how to deal with the politics outside of football is another thing to deal with abroad.
“And having to deal with expectation, going and meeting a Dato [in Malaysia] or meeting the Sheiks.
“Getting a phone call in the middle of the night saying a Sheik’s grandson birthday is on now, and you need to report in an hour, and you’re two hours away.
“And these things are non-negotiable. There’s no union or no-one to call. They say jump and you say, ‘How high?’.
“Whereas in Australia we ask for seven days’ notice, and if not, we go to the PFA!
Signed by German coach Theo Bucker (a legend in Lebanese football circles), Anderson – like the rest of the visa players – was expected to perform from day one at the Ras Al Khaimah outfit.
It’s the brutal reality of football abroad.
“I got my first taste of overseas football in Dubai," he says. "My first ever game was against Sharjah.
“We lost 5-1 and it was probably one of the hardest nights of my life. But it was also one of the best learning experiences.
“I played against this Brazilian striker called Douglas. He was one of the most incredible athletes and players I’ve ever had to deal with.
“Those experiences shape you. As Taylor Regan said recently when playing abroad the foreigners have to make a difference.
“And these teams spend their money on strikers. As a foreign defender, I’m up against these guys every week.
“And you have to shift and evolve your own game because one week you’re up against a short, nippy quick Malaysian, and the next week you’re up against a big Brazilian 1.9m monster.
“So you need to adapt and compete against the best. The strikers are just phenomenal and just shows you how many players there are, and always someone ready to take your place in the team.”
And that goes for the manager, too.