Nathan Burns is a journeyman of Australian football playing for the likes of Adelaide United, Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix but it’s his stints overseas that his best stories come from.
The former Australian international has made over 180 career appearances, beginning his senior career at Adelaide United and making an impressive impact in his first two A-League seasons to earn himself a Socceroos call-up.
His latest sojourn took him back to Wellington Phoenix where he made 25 appearances over the last two seasons before being released after struggling with an ankle injury.
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While the 31-year-old is currently without a club Burns hasn’t completely ruled out a return back to football.
“I still want to get back. I haven’t announced my retirement because it’s a big decision and to be honest I’m still unclear,” Burns told Adam Peacock and Robbie Slater on the Fox Football Podcast.
“I’m just training at the moment and just seeing where I am in a couple months.
“I’m still excited to get back but I’m not sure what role I’ll play in the future.”
While Burns is primarily known for his A-League career, his four-year spell in Greece at AEK Athens is where he witnessed the crazed nature of Greek ultras.
“We played a lot of games behind closed doors. They banned the fans mainly because of fighting because there would be riots after the games,” Burns said.
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“It affects the TV rights and the players it’s not a great environment to be playing in a 50,000 seater stadium and no one is in there.”
Burns played under AEK Athens legend Dušan Bajević and recalls the time the Bosnian found himself on the end of a belting from his own supporters.
“I had friends from Australia come watch that match. It was a friendly match and after the game it just kicked off, all the fans jumped the pitch,” he said.
“The coach (Dušan Bajević) arked up as well, he could’ve stepped back. I think he threw a punch and then there were a couple of punches thrown by the fans.
“He was a legend of the club, which makes it crazy.”
After suffering a loss Burns experienced first-hand the tempers of the supporters who saw football as much more than just a game.
“We were on the runway after losing 2 or 3 nil. Our fans jumped the runway and blocked the plane for taking off.
“So we all had to get off and apologise to our fans who had travelled.
“The fans are mixed with gangs as well so they’re more than just fans. You have to take them quite serious.”
Burns and his AEK Athens side certainly tried to avoid the apologies after losing 4-0 to fierce rivals Olympiacos, misleading fans into thinking they would take the team bus post-game back to the training ground and instead getting taxis to the hotel.
“Three days later we have a game and we’re at the team hotel and all the fans rocked up to our team hotel,” Burns said.
Clearly not impressed by the hoax the AEK Athens supporters interrupted the team meeting just an hour prior to kick off, letting Burns and co know their bus wouldn’t be making it on the freeway.
“We all had to jump in different taxis and taxi from the hotel to the stadium. Thank god I wasn’t playing otherwise I would’ve been rattled because we got there five minutes before kick-off and jumped straight out of our taxis straight onto the field,” Burns said.
Burns stint in Athens isn’t the only overseas stint where he witnessed a completely different culture, travelling with the Olyroos to North Korea.
With no live broadcast, supporters or media in attendance at the recent North Korea and South Korea fixture, Burns recalled his own surreal experiences playing there during the Beijing Olympics qualifier.
“I remember flying in on the Wednesday and we had to leave all our bags at the airport. No phones, no laptops,” Burns said.
“We qualified for the Olympics which was a big achievement for the boys, but we were stuck in North Korea for the next three days.
“We weren’t allowed to go for walks outside. We just walked around the hotel, it was so bizarre.
“They said the rooms were bugged so be careful what you say!”
While he has taken some time away from the wacky world of playing football, Burns has recently helped out coaching the Joeys and young talent from NSW, looking to lend his knowledge and experience to the next generation of Australian footballers.