21/04/2024

Kusini Yengi wearing the Australian flag after signing with Portsmouth F.C. Photo Credit:/Portsmouth F.C.

Socceroos rookie Kusini Yengi salutes former national striker Carl Veart for his influence in Yengi’s football journey that has led him to a potential senior level debut.

Veart, Adelaide United coach, first mentored 24-year-old Yengi when the attacker was part of Football South Australia’s National Training Centre (NTC) program.

“He coached me since I was 14 and then when I broke into the (Adelaide) A-League squad, he was there, so having him on the sidelines gave me a lot of confidence,” Yengi said.

“I knew how much he believed in me as a player and he helped me make the next step, (and) the next step, (and) the next step, and then when I was a professional he was there on the sidelines.”

Yengi said Veart’s belief travelled across several other players with African heritage who started in the South Australian system. Yengi comes from South Sudanese descent through his father.

“I think he played a big role in myself and Al Hassan, and a lot of the boys that have come through to become professionals,” Yengi said.

“Growing up when I was a kid, there wasn’t too many players of African descent coming through in the Socceroos, but lately there’s been more and more.

“Players like Awer Mabil and Thomas Deng are players that have played really well for the Socceroos, have been part of the squad numerous times and they’re boys that I know and boys that I grew up watching, and once I saw them come through, it’s motivating seeing them play.

“If I play (against Bangladesh) it’s going to be my debut. It’s something that not many people get to experience. I can’t wait, and hopefully we get the win.”

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Yengi said it was an “honour” to represent the African community in the Australian team.

Veart always knew Yengi would play at a senior level on the international stage, but the injury setbacks were holding him back from young age.

“The way he’s managed himself through those injury disappointments and kept working, he’s been a credit to himself,” a proud Veart said.

“We’ve always known that he could play for the Socceroos, it was just a matter of whether he got his body right, because he definitely had the mental aptitude to get to that level.”

Yengi suffered an ankle injury while playing for his English Football League One side Portsmouth in August. He believes he would have played his first cap if it weren’t for the injury.

“When I got the ankle injury, it was a bit disappointing, but I just channeled my focus into getting back on the pitch and trying to score goals and get back in contention for being in the squad,” he said.

“I put in a lot of work in the off-season to get my body right and to go over there feeling confident, fit and healthy.”

The Socceroos will meet Bangladesh at AAMI Park on Thursday for the first World Cup qualifier.

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