In a fascinating sub-plot to Wednesday night's Westfield FFA Cup semi-final, Hume City's popular defender Shane Rexhepi is set to mark fellow Albanian Besart Berisha.
And as you'd expect, Rexhepi is under no illusions as to the magnitude of the assignment when the PS4 NPL club face the reigning Hyundai A-League champions at AAMI Park.
“Besart Berisha is Albanian background and so am I,” revealed Rexhepi to theffacup.com.au.
“To play on him is huge. I marked up on him in our [recent] friendly game and he knows I’m Albanian so we had a good chat after the game and I speak to him every now and then off the park.
“He’s excited and looking forward to playing on me, so it’s going to be a great experience. Not just for me but for my family and the whole Albanian community in Melbourne.”
Rexhepi was on a reconnaissance mission along with teammates Matt Hennessey and Joey Franjic when Victory played City in the Melbourne Derby.
On that night, Berisha famously scored in the 90th minute to give the Kevin Muscat’s side a memorable 3-2 win.
The 30-year-old also produced some late heroics when Victory played Hume City in a pre-season friendly, with Victory scoring two late goals to pull off a late 4-3 win – Berisha netting the winner.
“I know they weren’t happy with that [friendly] result so they’re definitely going to come out this game and come out firing,” said Rexhepi.
“We’ve played on them before, we’re confident we can score goals against them. we’ve just got to tighten up in defence because the goals we conceded weren’t good enough from a defensive point of view.
“We’re definitely confident coming into this game.”
Hume City have enjoyed a fairytale run to reach the last four of the FFA Cup having come within minutes of elimination in the Round of 32.
“The highlight for me was the game I didn’t play, I was watching the boys while suspended, our first FFA Cup game against Brisbane Strikers,” said Rexhepi.
“In the 90th minute we were down 2-1 and I thought it was over and then obviously the FFA Cup hero Marcus Schroen popped up and scored and obviously scored again in extra-time where we won 4-3."
Something else that holds a special place in Rexhepi’s heart is the fundraising he’s been undertaking.
The 28-year-old set up the cancer charity sr13appeal.org after losing his father Zenel to the disease, with a cheque for over $20,000 to be presented to the Victorian Cancer Council just before kick-off on Wednesday night.
“It’s incredible all the help that I’ve got, with Hume City, teams in the NPL, teams in the State leagues, family and friends,” said Rexhepi.
“There’s no word that I can use to describe how much that means to me and my family.
“I had a target roughly in my head that was $5,000 dollars at the start of the year and it’s come up to around $23,000 which is unbelievable.”
Click here to find out more about Shane's SR13 Appeal and to donate.