Liberato Cacace has always wanted to play professional football in Europe, but he never anticipated the experience to turn out quite like this.
The former Wellington Phoenix man is adjusting well to his new surroundings at Sint-Truiden in Belgium, but the country itself is bracing for a massive second wave of Covid-19 cases.
The Belgian government’s responded to a resurgence of coronavirus cases by announcing new restrictions, including a nighttime curfew and the closure of cafes, bars and restaurants for a month.
“So it's going to be long cold afternoons here in my apartment," he tells 1 NEWS.
It’s been a hectic time for the 20-year-old, who has been a regular starter in the Jupiler Pro League recently.
“It took me about three weeks to fully adjust. It is much quicker.
“A lot of foreigners, when they came to the Phoenix they said the Australian league was the most physical league that they'd been at.
“But I'd say this is more physical. Everyone's strong, everyone's tough, it's a battle out there."
Despite the seemingly smooth transition, Cacace admits to a few eye-opening moments.
"If you make a mistake in this league, they punish you. I saw that in training. You make a mistake and everyone's onto you. I know what I have to work on. It's great to be challenged every day."
He admits the defensive side of his game still needs work.
"I could slouch here and there in the A-League. I could be lazy, not tuck in and be compact with the team, whereas here they're sharp, they're quick, they'll punish you."
And the prospect of relegation provides a reality check.
“In the A-League there wasn't any relegation. That's one thing that I'm learning as well: Every game you've got to fight.”