Melbourne Victory heavyweight Besart Berisha has backed the striking Matildas but called on A-League players and bosses to avoid a similar fate for the sake of the sport.
Australia’s national women’s football team declined to tour the United States this week, protesting a new pay deal impasse.
The pay negotiations – which include players in the A-League, Socceroos and Matildas – remain deadlocked with the national league kicking off in just over three weeks.
The Albanian – one of the highest-paid footballers in Australia – said he sympathised with the Matildas, saying football wages were unreasonably skewed towards men.
“It’s a shame because the women get nothing and we get everything, it’s doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“It’s not nice what happened with the Matildas, I can understand them and I’m behind them too.”
Player representatives Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) have repeatedly declined to take the threat of A-League player strikes off the table, making league bosses and fans very nervous.
Berisha, who has been a prolific goal-scorer since his arrival in Australia in 2011, said a suitable outcome for players needed to be reached and soon.
“I really hope the FFA and PFA can agree what is right for the players because we are going so well in the moment in Australia,” he said.
“We have AFL, rugby and all these strong sports, so it’s not easy … we are so close to being strong, moving forward, and then these things put us back.
“For this beautiful game, just sort it out before the A-League starts and let’s just enjoy the A-League.”
Berisha himself barely stands to gain from any pay deal.
As Victory’s international marquee, he is exempt from the salary cap and so wouldn’t benefit from a cap rise – one of the key PFA requests.
Berisha impressed on the pitch on Monday afternoon, scoring twice in a behind-closed-doors friendly with Central Coast at AAMI Park.
The gifted marksman scored both goals in two second-half minutes, showing his trademark enthusiasm by celebrating his first goal despite the empty stands.
His coach, Kevin Muscat, made clear his intention to stay out of the debate, saying he hadn’t given any thought to the idea of an A-League strike.
“There’s been enough said in the press, way too much,” he said.
“All I will say is we’re focussed on, and all my time is focussed on making sure we’re prepared.”