“You might be the best thing. You might be the best big talent and the next big thing coming through. But someone who is hungry, who works hard, who sacrifices, who might not have the potential that you have, but is willing to sacrifice, work hard, do the right thing, will have a bigger career in the end.”
When he is not working on his tan and eating smashed ‘avo’ down at Terrigal Esplanade, Mark Birighitti is putting every part of his body on the line. That might be his face (spoiler alert – this has happened more than once), arms, legs, anything to stop the ball from going in the back of the net.
That is his job.
Mark’s professional football career started in 2008 with Adelaide United and then moved to the Newcastle Jets in 2012 where he quickly became the first-choice goalkeeper. He joined Premier League side Swansea in 2016, moved to Holland in 2017–2018, before returning to Australia in 2018 after signing a deal with Melbourne City. He then joined the Central Coast Mariners in 2019 and in his debut season, won the Mariners medal.
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Coming from an Italian background you could say Mark’s love of football has been ingrained in him from an early age as his grandfather, uncle and father (who was also a goalkeeper) all played. It has been said that goalkeepers are a special breed and, as the last line of defence, they certainly have to have a strong mentality. This is something that his father embedded in Mark early on in his career. Strikers, midfielders and defenders can get away with making mistakes, but for a goalkeeper, there’s no one there to help you. If you make a bad mistake, it can cost the team and it can cost you as well.
This is a problem that Mark likes to have, as he loves the pressure going into every game. “It is a courageous position. You need balls of steel. You’re going to have a lot of downs. You’re going to make mistakes,” he says, “but the important thing is how you recover from those mistakes.” Mark has played at the highest level, he is now a leader in the team and experience has taught him how to react, adapt and overcome these kinds of situations.
For Mark, leadership is a massive word. Back in the day, people thought a leader on the field was a captain who shouts and screams, but it is not like that. The game has changed. A leader is someone who you look up to in the good and the bad. As a leader for the Mariners, one of the youngest teams in the league, Mark knows it is important to help and encourage these young players and lead them on the right path. It is the first year of professional football for some of them and the leadership team is not going to get the best out of them if they are constantly shouting and screaming at them 24/7.
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The focus of today’s The Culture of Things (TCoT) Podcast is understanding the mindset of a goalkeeper. Brendan and Mark discuss topics such as developing a strong mindset, the importance of surrounding yourself with good people, hard work and sacrifice, game day rituals and how to recover from mistakes.
One of the questions Brendan asked Mark is “What sort of legacy do you want to leave for other players?” Mark shared that part of the legacy he wants to leave is to guide the young players coming through and be a good role model on and off the field. What he would like players to say about him is that he is a winner. That he is an honest, helpful and humble person.
The complete interview can be listened to here, on audio platforms, or watched here, on The Culture of Things (TCoT) YouTube channel. Have a listen and then let us know whether you think this A-league star is on the right track to leaving that legacy…