Striker Eli Babalj admits he will have added motivation to perform in front of family and friends when he faces home town club Perth Glory in Sunday’s Hyundai A-League Elimination Final.
Babalj was raised in the West Australian capital after emigrating from Germany as a three-year old, learning his craft as a junior at Perth SC before entering Football West’s elite development program.
He later spent a season with Perth Glory’s National Youth League outfit before moving across to Canberra and the Australian Institute of Sport, where he honed his craft under the auspices of Jan Versleijen and Gary van Egmond.
It was here that Babalj’s unique talents were first spotted by Heart head coach John van ‘t Schip, prompting his move south to the red half of Melbourne.
Two years later, Babalj is truly entrenched in the fabric of the Club, and has made the city his home, emerging as a genuine star of the future courtesy of a series of scintillating attacking displays.
The 20-year old though retains an affinity for his home city, and eagerly awaits the chance to show his mettle at nib Stadium.
“It will be special,” he said. “I was hoping for Perth the last couple of weeks, knowing that it's a possibility. It's finally happened and hopefully we can go there and get a win.”
"I haven't scored against them in the two seasons so I am really looking forward to getting one over there."
While for the meantime, Babalj’s gaze is focused on the immediate challenge ahead, the Bosnian-born striker remains hopeful of Heart launching a deep playoff run.
“We've got Perth now, and then after that we've got either Sydney or Wellington,” he said.
“We've shown this year that we can win and hopefully we get a chance to play against Brisbane or Central Coast in the prelim.”