With Kosta Barbarouses it's not quite from hero to zero, more from hero to 'where are you?'

This time last year the All White striker's name was everywhere, starring for the Brisbane Roar as they completely dominated the Australasian football scene. He scored 12 goals, added many more assists and was named in the A-League's All-star team.

Twelve months on, Barbarouses, 21, has virtually disappeared from our footballing awareness after his move to the second tier of Russian football with Alania Vladikavkaz.

Over there, temperatures can fall as low as -25 degrees Celsius, he can barely communicate with his team mates (or anyone else for that matter) and he lives in a city of few enchantments; located 1500km from Moscow and over 2000km from St Petersburg, Vladikavkaz is a mix of the best in grand Soviet architectural traditions and extremely conservative Eastern Orthodox Christian culture, with closer historical links to Iran than Russia.


So, in terms of lifestyle factors, it is light years from Queensland and probably not up there in terms of dream European destinations. But Barbarouses, who surprised many with his move, claims to have no second thoughts about the switch.

"It was a really tough one," says Barbarouses. "It would have been nice to stay but in a way I wanted to take the next step. Last season was a dream at the Roar but this one may not have gone so well (and it hasn't). You never know with football and, when two clubs agree, often you have to take it.

"Anyway, as soon as you start to regret things, you lose the battle."

On the field, things seem to have gone well. Alania currently sit on top of the 22-team Russian first division and are prime contenders for a swift return to the Russian Premier League, after being relegated at the end of last season. Barbarouses feels time there has made him into a more composed, confident player. He has been used in a variety of attacking positions, though he has only added one goal in 11 games since scoring on his debut. He also experienced the Europa League, though after battling through the qualifying stages Alania exited in the first round at the hands of Turkish powerhouse Bestikas.

He says the top 10 first division teams are "quite decent" and would do well in the A League, adding that the football is not as physical but just as fast. Russian football is currently on a high, with several recent European successes, the 2018 FIFA World Cup on the horizon and their Premier League is ranked the seventh best in Europe by UEFA.

A couple of his team-mates speak some English but he reasons that on the football field there are "five or 10 words that are universal." There are four other imports, as well as some Bulgarians and Moldovans with Russian passports.

Barbarouses has certainly racked up the miles. Vladikavkaz is located in the extreme south west of Russia, and, with Russian territory stretching across 17 million square kilometres (one eighth of the world's inhabited land) it means huge trips for a single match, something that Barbarouses says he has become accustomed to.

"It's not the most modern place," says Barbarouses diplomatically of Vladikavkaz, "and there are not too many distractions - especially compared with Wellington or Brisbane. But's its okay, I quite like the simple life."


Just as well. Apart from football, life seems to consists of visits to "nice restaurants" and the supermarket. He can just about "get by" in Russian but can't yet hold a conversation, certainly not enough to understand the dubbed movies at the cinema or the fare on TV.

It is also strictly conservative: "Men and women don't seem to spend a lot of time together," says Barbarouses, "even those in a relationship."

Premium vodka goes for $10 a litre and food is cheap, though he has not became a convert to caviar. He spends heaps of time on Skype, while his girlfriend visited in August and Barbarouses went home in Wellington at the start of the winter break.

Barbarouses won't be available for the upcoming Olympic qualification tournament (the Russian league starts on March 12, four days before the first Olympic match) but can't wait for the chance to play in London "if the boys make it."

He is also looking forward to the match against Jamaica this month, and the prospect of Marco Rojas and Barbarouses on the park together is a mouth-watering one for All Whites fans.

For now though, he will continue his Russian odyssey.