The two newest Socceroos have described a surreal experience as they live out their childhood dreams with the team in Kuwait.
Central Coast defender, Ruon Tongyik and Melbourne City midfielder Connor Metcalfe both stepped onto the field in the second half of the 5-1 win against Chinese Taipei.
For both players it was the culmination of a great A-League season and long held ambitions.
“It’s been a surreal 10 hours,” said a still exhilarated Metcalfe. “Last night I couldn’t sleep much, realizing what I just did.”
Tongyik did not hide his joy at his first cap for Australia, a reward for a career best season at The Mariners.
“I was just buzzing, I was real happy, I was smiling just before coming on. I was really excited and it was a moment I had been waiting for.”
For Tongyik the call up came after he had initially turned down approaches from South Sudan to represent them. Never doubting which shirt he wanted to wear.
“I always had that (Australia call-up) in the back of my mind. And I always had a feeling that one day I would represent Australia.
“I just wanted to put my head down and work hard and it’s worked out in the best way possible.”
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Both players have relished the opportunity to train up close from players they had watched from afar. Metcalfe has been eager to learn from Jackson Irvine in particular.
“He’s in the same position as me and I just wanted to see how he carries himself and how he trains and so far he’s been incredible. He’s helped me a lot, always gives 100% and I really look up to him.”
Now in his second season at his fifth A-League club, Tongyik credits Central Coast with providing him with the support to reach his goal.
“It’s a very family orientated club… I just felt very at home at the Mariners.
“I’ve been enjoying being there, the people are amazing and I’m very happy to be there… without the club, I don’t think I’d be here.”
Neither player felt overawed by the occasion once on the field. Nominally a central defender, Tongyik looked at home in midfield while Metcalfe is an example of the depth that Arnold is trying to build.
The next generation of Socceroo’s is forming before our eyes, in competitive matches, in harsh conditions. They are thriving and loving every minute.
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