Kris Bright is the ultimate footballing gypsy.

The former All White has returned to this country to play for Auckland City, after an incredible overseas football odyssey that spanned more than 12 years.

No other Kiwi has played for as many clubs (13) or in as many countries (11) as the 31-year-old, who headed offshore soon after appearing for the New Zealand Knights in the 2005-2006 A League season.

While he has never really found a permanent home, he has had spells in Holland, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Hungary, Greece, Malta, India, South Africa, England and Northern Ireland.


In some ways Bright's is a tale of bad luck, missed opportunities, unfortunate decisions, untimely injuries and some unbelievable episodes, especially in certain countries where corruption is prevalent.

But on the other hand Bright has truly lived, in the spirit of Dr Seuss' Oh the Places You'll Go! with amazing experiences and the satisfaction of pursuing his dream.

"Sometimes my family would say 'Oh you are off on another adventure, it's great'," said Bright. "But I didn't want to be always on the move. I don't really like travelling but I just wanted to keep playing and at the highest level that I could. So if I left a club it was always for a reason; I needed game time, or I didn't get paid, or just to keep going.

"Often I hated changing clubs; to make good friends for a year and then have to leave, it's horrible. But at the same time now, to be able to say that I lived and breathed it, is quite special."

Of all of the chapters in Bright's life, probably the most staggering occurred in Finland, when he thought he was on his deathbed, convinced his time was up.

With six months left on his contract, he had travelled to Poland for trials, and inked a contract.

"It was a good club, nice stadium - I was well happy," said Bright.

But days later, as he was travelling back to Finland, he received an urgent call from his agent.

"He told me 'Kris get yourself to the hospital as soon as possible'," recalls Bright. "You have failed your medical, you have two or three weeks to live, you have a serious liver disease."

Bright was incredulous, but took the news on face value.

"I called my father to tell him I loved him. Then I called my fiance, who was shopping in London. She said 'Shut up - you are not going to die'."

Upon arrival in Finland, Bright was rushed to hospital.

"I had a whole lot of blood tests but eventually the results were fine," said Bright. "I did have a liver problem, some slightly elevated results, but the president of the Polish club was taking all of the money at the club and had bumped the results way up."

On another occasion Bright was close to a deal with another European club, but eventually baulked at a clause in the fine print.

"The contract said the club was going to pay me half the money up front, then the other half after two years - if I was still alive," said Bright. "That didn't feel right."

In another country Bright had one of his best experiences, on and off the field, before "smashing" his knee in a game.

"It blew up like a balloon and it didn't feel good," said Bright. "But the club wanted me back, and they were draining fluid from my knee every second day. Eventually I got an MRI scan. My anterior cruciate ligament was hanging off and I was gone for at least six months. Within a few hours of hearing this news, I got a call from the club saying I was being sacked for gross misconduct.

"They owed me half my yearly salary but obviously didn't want to pay it," said Bright. "I was barred from the club, the ground and stuck there for a few months on my own."

Bright has been dogged by misfortune, none more so than when he had signed a deal with Norwegian first division club Stabekk after a prolific spell in the second tier with Kristiansund in 2007-2008.

"They had just won the league, they were playing in Europe, and I had agreed a deal," said Bright. "I was due to sign on the Thursday, but had a match on the Monday. In the first 15 minutes I hit the post, the crossbar then broke my leg."

A spell in Greece with Panserraikos featured some amazing experiences; he was marked by former Newcastle defender Nikos Dabizas in his first match, and played against Panathinaikos, who had Brazil World Cup winner Gilberto Silva in their side, but it was difficult off the field.

There were huge language barriers and run-ins with the coach - "I was fined around $70 for something stupid, so I got two bags of 10c pieces and dumped them on his desk" - and wages were always late.

"If you want to see corruption go to Greece," said Bright. "At the end of my first season they said they had no money for the next year of my contract. I could play for nothing, or they would offer me a release. I got out of there."

Bright has had some great highs - he hit top form for IFK Mariehamn in the Finnish Premier League in 2013, with nine goals from 22 league games - and has played for his country five times.

"When it's good, it's really good. But when it's bad, it's really bad.

"So many times when I was injured or between clubs my wife would say 'Do you want to do something else?'. I thought about it once or twice but then I would go to the gym, get on the treadmill and think, I want to be a footballer again.

"I've got a few regrets - moving at certain times when I shouldn't have, or not going to a particular club or whatever - but for 12 years of my life I was a professional and didn't have to work on the fishing docks.

"When I first played for Canterbury United I was working at the docks from 6am, and then training in the evening. That's a tough life."

Bright is excited to be home but is also a bit daunted: "My next problem is finding a job. On my CV people are going to see, 'good at heading', 'got a great right foot'. What else am I going to put? That is the hard part."