By Lachlan Mitchell
The journey from Heatherton United Soccer Club to the biggest stage at the World Cup has been one filled with hard work and determination for Ajdin Hrustic.
Hrustic played his junior soccer with Heatherton United before recently taking centre stage on the world scene.
Hrustic has made his name for German top-flight side Eintracht Frankfurt, where he was key in helping them secure the 2022 Europa Cup.
Hrustic was formidable in the Europa League Final where he helped Eintracht Frankfurt achieve its second Europa League win after a 42-year wait.
The striker was also significant in seeing Australia progress towards the World Cup finals with a stunning volley against the UAE.
The Dandenong athlete’s ability to remain cool and calm under pressure was tested even further when he was required to step up and slot home a crucial penalty for his country.
The 25-year old calmly placed the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net, to inch Australia past Peru and to their fifth consecutive World Cup finals appearance.
Hrustic’s ability to remain calm, and his sublime soccer talent, was noticed early on by stalwart and president of Heatherton United Soccer Club, Resul Heco.
“The hard yards he and his family have put in, you could definitely tell as a junior that he had something special and he was technically gifted,” Heco said.
“You could definitely tell as a kid that he was well above everyone else as a younger boy.
“All his ability from a young age, you can’t teach that, and all the hard work has paid off.
Heco explained that Hrustic’s father pretty much risked and sold everything for his son to go overseas with no guarantees.
“They went to the UK to play soccer with no guarantees and then they moved on to Germany,” he said.
Like most Australians, Heco was holding his breath when Hrustic lined up from the penalty spot against Peru…but was confident in his former junior.
“When he took the penalty in the Europa League final a lot of people knew that he was calm,” Heco explained.
“He has a very good left foot and we were confident he would score a goal, but in penalty shoot-outs you never know, it could go either way and for Ajdin it went in.”
Hrustic and Australia’s campaign at the World Cup kicks off on November 23 against France in Qatar.