Growing up in Helensburgh, Aaron Calver could never have dreamed that one day he would play football in Korea.
But that's exactly the reality for the now 27-year-old, who starts in defence for Gwangju FC in the K League 1. The competition is the premier men's league in South Korea, and Calver's teammates include Albanian international Jasir Asani and Korean rising star Jeong Ho-yeon.
Calver joined the club in March 2022 after departing A-Leagues club Perth Glory and, while it's been an exciting opportunity, his first overseas move has certainly provided its challenges - including living solo in a foreign country.
"It was a big shock, but it was made smoother by talking to a few Aussie boys that have played here in the past," Calver told the Mercury.
"So I knew what to expect to some extent."
On the field, Calver has shown few signs of nerves.
He has in particular excelled this K League 1 season for Gwangju, becoming a regular fixture in the side's defence and playing his role in driving them towards a finals appearance.
"The challenge of playing K1 football I have found easier to adapt to. I feel very comfortable within the league and never out of my depth, and our team plays some very attractive football," Calver said.
"I've played around 20 games this season and had to share minutes with our other foreign centre-back, but every time I play I feel I make a good account of myself, so I can't complain.
"We have reached our first goal of qualifying for the final A top six and I think now our focus is shifted towards trying to secure a spot in the Asian Champions League for next year."
Calver's journey to Gwangju began from humble beginnings during his junior days at the Helensburgh Thistle.
He then went through the Wollongong Wolves development system before joining Sydney FC, making his A-League debut as a teenager in 2011.
Calver spent seven years with the Sky Blues - winning two premierships and one championship - and then headed south to join Western United. He spent one with the Melbourne club before switching west to Perth Glory in June 2021. More than six months later, he was on a plan to Korea.
After joining the Glory, Calver admitted to the Mercury at the time that it was always tough to leave his loved ones back in Helensburgh.
"I will miss all of the boys back home and it's such a good football community," he said. "They always remember the local boys coming through, so I can't speak highly enough of the Illawarra."
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