“Here I am man, on the big stage.”
A bona fide statement from Shepparton’s Alou Kuol, who won’t be forgotten by football fans across the nation anytime soon.
Kuol made his starting debut for Central Coast Mariners on Friday night, featuring in a goalless draw against Newcastle Jets in the 50th F3 derby.
“I was very excited to make it in front of the home fans, the F3 derby and all that,” Kuol said.
“I was nervous at the start, but as the game went on I started to get more comfortable — a few tackles here and there, it was pretty good.”
Stacked against a veteran Jets defence and starved of proper distribution, chances were few and far between for the former Goulburn Valley Sun.
His best came in the 24th minute, after Samuel Silvera danced around two Jets defenders and slipped Kuol through on goal with a delicate pass.
Going shoulder to shoulder with Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Kuol hit the deck with a penalty shout raised, but nothing was given.
Due to Newcastle monopolising possession, Kuol’s involvement mainly came in the form of defensive duties and aerial battles, before being substituted in the 75th minute for Dylan Ruiz-Diaz.
But while the game may not have entertained, Kuol’s post-match interview certainly did.
When asked what it was like to go up against Topor-Stanley and Nigel Boogard, who occupy respective third and 13th position in the all-time A-League appearance list, Kuol’s response had reporter Robbie Slater in stitches.
“Nah not really,” Kuol said bluntly.
“There were a few big boys back at home, so you learn a thing or two coming up against them.”
Quizzed about his journey from Shepparton to Gosford, Kuol cited his rampaging campaign with the Goulburn Valley Suns last year as a compounding factor in putting him on Central Coast’s radar.
“I scored a hat-trick to win the league golden boot, and ‘Monty’ (CCM academy head coach Nick Montgomery) found me,” he said,
“I went for a trial with them, and from there it was history. Here I am man, on the big stage.”
Mariners’ coach Alen Stajcic had nothing but niceties reserved for Kuol and co, who fought tooth and nail to produce the point at home.
“We had a side packed full of our young and emerging talent and it was such a great rewarding effort to see all of that come off,” Stajcic said.
“The resilience that the boys showed tonight; we had Sammy Silvera and Alou start the game … we are talking 2000 and 2001 born kids.
“These kids are 19, 20 years of age and playing A-League football and they are stepping up to the plate.”
Mariners returned to Central Coast Stadium to take on Western Sydney Wanderers last night and Kuol had only two things on his mind.
“Obviously to win firstly, and secondly score a goal man — rifle one into the top corner, you know.”