While the All Whites were doing battle with China in Wuhan Leo Bertos, a regular in the New Zealand side, was keeping himself busy making coffees in Wellington’s Manners Mall.
While the All Whites were doing battle with China in Wuhan Leo Bertos, a regular in the New Zealand side, was keeping himself busy making coffees in Wellington-s Manners Mall.
With his Phoenix season ended early through injury Bertos has spent his days working at Café Zoro, a business he opened with friends a few months ago.
Not being with his international team-mates hit Bertos more the closer kickoff came but, as usual, the laid-back midfielder was philosophical.
“Of course I would love to be out there with them,” he said as he handed a coffee to a customer.
“It is always nice to be involved with the All Whites, especially as we don-t get to play that often. But I was never going to be able to make the trip so there was no use stressing about it.”
Bertos has been beset by groin problems for the past two seasons, and the fact that he has had little time off thanks to a schedule that meant playing for the All Whites in the Confederations Cup and World Cup finals, along with back-to-back seasons with the Phoenix, hasn-t helped.
“I-ve never experienced such a busy schedule before,” he said. “European and English players get used to that sort of thing, but it is different over here where we don-t normally play that many games.
“It definitely took its toll on me and the fact that the Phoenix lads spend so much time flying across the Tasman didn-t help either. If I had to do it again I could maybe manage it better.”
Unlike his previous groin problems, which were muscle related, his current injury involves the pubic bone.
“It is an overuse injury, a fatigue thing, which was probably a way of my body telling me to slow down. I-ve been told rest is the only treatment and that it could take five months to heal.
“I-ve noticed in the last couple of years that injuries take longer to heal and playing isn-t enjoyable when you are hurting.”
Working in the café all day while sidelined has made Bertos all the more determined to at least see out the remaining two years of his Phoenix contract.
“The clock is ticking mate,” Bertos,29, said with a wry smile.
“I want to be a footballer as long as possible. It is much better than working from 7 in the morning till 4.30 in a ‘real- job.”
The business got off to a slow start thanks to all the road works around Manners Mall, but Bertos said it was improving all the time.
He hopes the same applies to his injury and that he will be ready for action by October when the Hyundai A-League season kicks off.