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  • Writer's pictureIan Pulczynski

"I am very grateful" - Lived experience proving fruitful as Joshua Laws settles in Switzerland

Moving from country to country at a young age, enduring a substantial number of injuries, and playing in a COVID-restricted environment, Australian defender Joshua Laws has experienced a lot of movement and hardship throughout his career. However, the trials and tribulations have rewarded and motivated him daily.

Joshua Laws in action for Swiss club Grasshopper Zürich. (Grasshopper Club Zürich Instagram)


Born in Glasgow, Scotland, 25-year-old Australian defender Joshua Laws spent much of his childhood moving countries, switching from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany, before starting his youth football with the Blackburn Rovers in England.


After his time with Rovers, Laws moved to Germany in 2012 and signed with Fortuna Düsseldorf. The move proved exciting for Laws, as he progressed from the youth setup to the reserve team before eventually training with their senior side. However, as he began training with the senior team in Düsseldorf, Laws went through a phase culminating in many injuries, which he described as a life-long learning curve.


"It was very difficult, especially at that period when you're trying to break through the first team," Laws told Front Page Football  recently.


"It was gutting to be close and then be hammered by a series of injuries. But I had family around me, which helped as compared to other players who have injuries but don't have that close family support. I also started studying, so I did it on the side, and I felt it was something important to keep me mentally balanced so that I wasn't too mentally dependent on just football, and it definitely paid off."

Laws dealt with the adversity of injuries during his youth career. When he joined the Wellington Phoenix in 2020, the New Zealand-based side played their games in Wollongong, staying in Sydney due to the strict COVID measures in Australia and New Zealand. Thankfully for Laws, his family was by his side again, and the uncertainty did not affect him. Instead, the COVID restrictions strengthened Laws' bond with his new Phoenix teammates.

Laws in action for the Wellington Phoenix. (Wellington Phoenix)


"I had it easiest compared to the other Kiwi boys," Laws said when describing the experience of playing under COVID restrictions.


"They had it really tough. There was a player who got engaged but couldn't spend time with his fiance; we had players who had kids who couldn't see them. In terms of football, you had the aspect of not playing with any home fans. To not play in front of your home fans at all was a very odd experience. It was an interesting experience to join a club and for nearly the first whole season, not actually play in front of your home fans at all, [it] was odd.


"On the other hand, I will say that I grew very closely with them. It was quite a bonding experience to be with them because I wouldn't say you were forced, but you had to spend time with others as there weren't really any partners or families around. That experience made a very close-knit team. I made a lot of really good friendships because of that situation, which I am very grateful for."


Laws played over 50 matches for the Nix in all competitions, averaging 77 minutes per match and keeping ten clean sheets, adding two assists to his name. Under current Sydney FC manager Ufuk Talay, he alternated positions from an almost defensive midfield role to slotting in as a permanent left-sided centre-back.


However, despite the success with Wellington, the former A-League Men defender knew that to progress his career further, a European return had to be on the radar. Initially wanting a move to either the United Kingdom, Germany, or the Netherlands, a surprise offer from Swiss Super League side Grasshopper Zürich came through, an offer the 25-year-old did not want to turn down.


"My plan for the next step was that I definitely wanted to play somewhere in Europe," Laws said.


"I appreciated my time at Wellington, but to a certain extent, I missed European football, as I think it gives you something a little bit different. I really wanted to come back (to Europe), and it was my goal. Grasshopper got in touch with my agent, and it moved on pretty quick.


"I hadn't really considered Switzerland as a potential option. I had talks with the chairman about the club, coaches, staff, and got a feel [of it]. I was very excited about it and glad to be here. It's the perfect next step forward."

Many past and present Australian players, including Scott Chipperfield, Mile Sterjovski, Ross Aloisi, Oliver Bozanic, Trent Sainsbury, and Tomi Juric, have called Switzerland their home. It has proven a successful pathway for this Aussie contingent, with some players winning trophies and making many appearances at their respective Swiss clubs. For example, Chipperfield featured more than 350 times for FC Basel.


Laws has featured for the Zürich-based club in eight league matches this season and made his starting debut against Switzerland's only UEFA Champions League group stage representative, BSC Young Boys. He has played an average of 63 minutes across those eight Swiss Super League matches, winning three.

Laws (right) celebrates a goal alongside fellow Australian Awer Mabil (left). (Awer Bul Mabil Instagram)


Swiss football has been a different experience for the Australian, with comparisons drawn to the A-League Men. But living in Switzerland and the football culture in the country has also been eye-opening for the defender.


"I would say that tactically, there isn't much of a difference [compared to the A-League Men]," Laws said.

"I wouldn't say that the Swiss league is superior to the A-League, but in terms of the physicality, speed of the game, and directness, then it is different to what I was used to. It is a lot faster, which took a while for me to get used to, but I adjusted to the league fast.

"Traditionally, football is the most followed sport here, and it's quite nice, to be honest. I know in Australia, the attention is spanned across many sports, and the thing I appreciate here in Europe is the passion and tradition of the supporters, and you feel that in the games. I really enjoy playing here."


How about the lifestyle and the cost of living in what is known to be one of Europe's wealthiest countries?


"It is unbelievably expensive, it is mental," Laws added.


"I'm still trying to get used to [the prices], to be honest, but the lifestyle is beautiful. Again, I hadn't really known what to expect when I first came here. Maybe it's naive, but all I knew from Switzerland was mainly the Alps and snow. It's a really lovely country. I live relatively close to the city, and the summer I joined was very nice. People in Zürich even swim in the lakes because it's so clean, which is really nice to see."


Laws has been capped by the Joeys and the Olyroos internationally. The Glasgow-born defender aspires to represent the Socceroos, stressing the move to Europe as a potential eyecatcher for Graham Arnold and his coaching staff.

 

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Scotland-born Laws has previously represented Australia at youth level. (MyFootball)


"100%, it's the goal," Laws said when asked whether he would like to play for the Socceroos.


"I'd love to play for my country. I've played up until the U23s. I'm hoping a move here at a big traditional club and playing alongside Awer (Mabil) will help, and that will be the next step. If I just keep doing my thing, I hope I will get an opportunity."

Despite past hardships, especially during his youth in Germany, Joshua Laws continues to progress. A move to a European first tier like the Swiss Super League, a place Australians have historically succeeded, could open up a new door for him as a potential future Socceroo.


At this point, Laws will have to watch his national team from afar, not included in Arnold's final 26-man squad for the Asian Cup in January. His opportunities to impress again will not commence until the third week of the new year, when Grasshopper faces Young Boys, as the Swiss Super League is currently on winter break.


Click here to read more of our coverage of Aussies abroad!

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