21/04/2024
Nestor Irankunda's irresistible form for Adelaide United has generated an immense amount of attention (Image: Jordan Trombetta; Adelaide United)

Nestor Irankunda's irresistible form for Adelaide United has generated an immense amount of attention (Image: Jordan Trombetta; Adelaide United)

On the back of being selected as a train-on in the Socceroos squad against Ecuador, young Reds' star Nestor Irankunda shared how he is dealing with the increasing hype his game is generating.

While most South Australian high school students would have spent the Adelaide Cup long weekend catching up on sleep or homework, 17-year-old football prodigy Nestor Irankunda had other plans.

During that weekend, he traveled with Adelaide United to Newcastle, scored his seventh professional goal, and got compared to Manchester City star Earling Haaland on social media by the official A Leagues page.

If that was not enough excitement, the young winger was announced as a train-on in Graham Arnold’s Socceroos squad selected to take on Ecuador.

While the hype Irankunda has received on the field, on social media, and even at school is immense, he has learned to keep his head grounded.

Red captain Craig Goodwin was expectedly selected for the Socceroos squad, but teammate Joe Gauci was admittedly lost for words with the news of his selection. Despite receiving a life-changing opportunity at such a young age, Irankunda noticeably remained grounded in the face of the news.

“It’s nothing crazy for me honestly, this is football so it does happen and I guess I am just really confident right now, my confidence is high. I guess I’ll just try doing my best on the field and off the field,” shared the young winger.

After receiving a reality check, finding himself dropped from the Adelaide United senior squad earlier in the season for failing to meet team standards, Irankunda buckled down and has not looked back since regaining the trust and respect of his teammates.

“At the start of the season, a lot of things happened for me. There were a lot of things going on at home and it kind of affected what was happening with my performances at training and the way I was, my attitude. I’ve tried to fix that and I guess the team sees there is a difference in me, I put my head into the football and everything is worked out now.”

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Even though he has only been named as a train-on in the Socceroos squad, coach Graham Arnold has informed Irankunda that if his attitude is right and he impresses in training he would have a shot to earn minutes and his first international cap.

“If I play against Ecuador, I want to try my hardest to get a goal, and help the team out, obviously. It will just be a really good opportunity for me, my family, and everybody else, the club, to have me play for the Socceroos at a young age.”

Being only a teenager, Irankunda does not lack confidence. Despite not having an A Leagues start to his name yet, he is confident that it is a matter of time before he earns his starting debut, with a potential appearance for the Socceroos certain to add even more prestige to what is quickly becoming a household name in Australian football.

“I feel like I am ready, it is just a matter of time until I get that spot in the team to start. I feel like I am fit now, fitter than I was at the start of the year. I’ve put in the hard work and hopefully, I can get a start soon.”

Despite his hot run of form in the league, the possibility of becoming the youngest Socceroos ever, and a future of endless possibility ahead of him, Irankunda has learned to remain grounded, with close relationships with assistant coach Damian Mori, and Spanish duo Javi Lopez and Isaias, helping the youngster on and off the pitch.

Instead of buying into his own hype and the hyperbolic comparisons which are prevalent on social media, Irankunda insists that the experiences he has lived through in his young career, along with the support he is receiving from his family, friends, and club have him focused on his game and inspiring the next generation to follow his footsteps.

“It is good to hear (comparisons to former Socceroos), but I don’t focus on all of that stuff. For me it is about playing my football, I just try to play my own game. I don’t really focus on all the hype on social media and everything.

“I just want to try and get the A-League some new youngsters coming through from the youth system. I am just trying to inspire some kids to have a go and give it a shot.”

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