Having spent almost a decade in Asia and three years in the pressure cooker that is Romanian football, Ryan Griffiths shares with the PFA his time abroad , the impact it has had on him on and off the pitch, the experience it has given his young family and why the tough times were worth it.

A star of the old NSL the ambition was to secure a move to the United Kingdom. Work permit issues would cruel his dream move instead Ryan Griffiths’ European ambitions would take him to Romania. “I can remember everything about Romania,” he responds quickly when asked about the first few months in the country after signing with National Bucuresti.

“The set up at the club was perfect, everything you could ask for was there, but the real tough part came when I wasn’t get played at all and I don’t think I played a game for six months. I was training as hard as I could, I was away from my family, I had no family or friends there to support me and I can remember crying over the phone to  my Dad saying ‘I don’t know if I can do it, I really want to be successful here.’”

Success would come for Griffiths. Starring performances and goals would bring him to the attention of the biggest clubs on the country and eventually he would seal a move to heavyweights Rapid Bucuresti. His time as National had given him a foundation to be successful and to cope with the pressures of life at such a demanding club, but he concedes the pressure was immense.

“When I first went to Rapid, it was a record transfer in Romania, and when I got there the players were spiteful and no one was welcoming. I knew why I just had to put my head down and didn’t take take any shit from anyone.

“It wasn’t like in Australia where after training you go for a coffee you couldn’t do that because no one liked you. Eventually I started to play well and the pressure eased a bit. I remember I scored in my first game and didn’t score in the next two and the fans were calling for my head, I will always remember that.”

Offers from across Europe followed, and Germany looked to be his next stop, but things in football often don’t go to plan and an unexpected move to China was his next move. “Lauren (his then girlfriend and now wife) was on a flight to come and visit me in Romania and I was leaving to go to China and we must have passed each other in the air. It came so quick and I had to go there and then. I got someone from the club to pick here up and take her to the apartment and once I landed I phoned her to say sorry I have just signed a contract in China. Thankfully she was keen to see China and was happy to follow me there.”

It would mark the beginning of what has been almost 10 years in Asia – an experience that he has embraced throughout the China, Malaysia and currently Hong Kong where he currently plays with South China.

“When I first got to China I remember eating lunch with the team and there is all these crazy things on the menu. I couldn’t believe how different it was to Australia and Europe. As soon as I got to China, I realised everything was very different. I think I was the first Australian in the CSL.”

Off the pitch and on it his time in Asia would have an enormous impact on him and his family.

“Lauren deserves a trophy I have dragged her around. She has always found a way to get along. My son speaks Mandarin and he speaks a bit of Bahasa. He knows the difference between Asian countries and I thought it was all one country when I was his age, 5, he has seen so much. It is something that is a real education for him. It is the same for my daughter who is younger.”

Off the pitch Griffiths has been far from idle, busily preparing for life post football by gaining qualifications in trading and finance. The ambition is to forge a career in the industry after he retires from professional football, although that is likely to have to wait after an overhaul in his diet has left him confident that he can play until he is 40.

“I changed my diet a few years and cut out all meat and dairy. I tried it for two weeks and I can’t go back now. I used to wake up tired and I thought I’m going to have to retire soon and then I thought I’ll change my diet first. I changed it completely and started having more energy. I said to my wife ‘this is amazing.’

For Griffiths the ambition will remain the same – for his family to be happy. “I have really enjoyed my career the ups and the downs. Once you get through the tough times you enjoy the game and it is all part of it. I’m very grateful for everything football has given me and my family.”