WA keeper meets Italian master
WA goalkeeper Mark Birighitti after playing against his childhood hero Gianluigi Buffon. Picture: Supplied.

WA goalkeeper Mark Birighitti used to wake up early on school mornings to watch his heroes play for Juventus in the Italian Serie A soccer league.

His favourite player was Gianluigi Buffon - Italy's games record holder and one of the most decorated goalkeepers of all time.

Last night, for the second time in four surreal days, the 23-year-old from North Perth played against the team he worshipped as a child.

In 2001, when soccer-mad Birighitti was just 10 years old, Buffon became the most expensive shot-stopper in the game.

He was signed by the Italian giants for more than $50 million – a record that still stands today.

Inspired by Buffon’s dominance over the next decade, Birighitti became a talented goalkeeper in his own right.

He joined A-League side Newcastle Jets in 2012 and was recently linked to German club Bayer Leverkusen.

The Perth Soccer Club product played the last 20 minutes of Sunday night's game between Juventus and the A-League All Stars in front of 55,364 fans at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

Juventus won 3-2, but Birighitti’s night was made when he swapped shirts with Buffon, 36, after the game.

The next day, he met his childhood hero for coffee.

“Buffon’s someone I’ve idolised forever, so to get his shirt and sit down and speak to him was an amazing feeling,” he said.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed about for a long time and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

“My dad’s been a Juventus supporter since he was a kid, too, so it wasn’t just special for me.

“I’m already thinking in the back of my mind, ‘Did that really happen?’”

Birighitti was expected to start in goal for Newcastle last night in a private scratch match against Juventus at Sydney's Jubilee Oval.

The former Servite College student has a lot on his mind with the European transfer window closing in just two weeks, but Buffon's words of wisdom have helped steady the ship.

“With the advice (Buffon) gave me, no wonder he’s been playing at the top level for 20 years. He’s an absolute professional," he said.

“He’s been there, he’s done that and he’s experienced everything in football.

"If an opportunity in Europe comes up, it comes up, but at the moment I’m back in Newcastle and enjoying it here.

"I’m in the right mindset."

The West Australian

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