Newcastle new boy Garang Kuol came to Australia as a refugee before becoming the youngest international since Harry Kewell
NEWCASTLE fans could get their first glimpse of World Cup prodigy Garang Kuol if he makes Australia’s squad.
Eddie Howe’s side moved quickly to secure the signature of the 18-year-old talent – beating Barcelona to the punch – in a reported £300,000 deal with A-League side Central Coast Mariners.
But before the move was completed, Kuol got his first taste of international football with his adopted country – becoming the youngest player since Harry Kewell to play for the Socceroos when he made his debut against New Zealand last weekend.
It’s the icing on the cake for the dynamic forward’s remarkable journey.
His family fled war-torn Sudan to Egypt, where he was born, and eventually arrived in Australia as refugees.
Now he could be on his way to the World Cup as a wildcard in Qatar.
Not much is known about Garang’s upbringing.
He is reportedly one of six siblings, including older brother Alou Kuol, who is on the books of VfB Stuttgart.
It has been revealed that his family moved from Khartoum to Egypt when Alou was just three – a year before Garang was born in 2004.
After a year there, they moved again to Australia, where they settled as refugees.
His father, Mawien, and mother Antonita worked as a dry cleaner, while Antonita also had a job as a seasonal worker in a fruit factory.
But football became the biggest passion for the boys.
In his spare time, Garang and his brother watched an old VHS tape of Australia’s World Cup highlights – and dreamed of emulating their heroes.
“It was basically an amalgamation of one of the World Cups, the key moments put into a tape – some of the goals, big moments, some of the games,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I can’t remember much about it, but I only remember players who [Mark] Bresciano, Tim Cahill and stuff like that. We used to see it, legit, like every day, the same tape. It was one of the sickest things ever.”
Following his dreams
Garang’s path into football mirrored that of his older brother.
He played youth team football for the Goulburn Valley Suns and was then snapped up by the Central Coast Mariners Academy in 2019.
Just 11 months after signing his first deal with the club, Garang was thrust into first-team action – scoring seven minutes into his first-team debut against semi-pro side APIA Leichhardt in the Australian version of the FA Cup.
The following year, Garang scored again – this time in the A-League in a cameo appearance off the bench in the 5-0 rout of Wellington Phoenix.
His blistering start to life as a professional has continued – and in his nine games he has already scored four times, under the tutelage of Nick Montgomery, formerly of Sheffield United.
Back in May, he was one of two “Commissioner’s Picks” to play in the 2022 A-League’s All Stars match against Barcelona.
70,000 fans crammed into Sydney’s Olympic Stadium to see Garang take the stage.
A highlight of his skills saw him waltz past four Barcelona stars, before narrowly missing the target. He also hit the post late in the match All Stars lost 3-2.
Barça manager Xavi was impressed by what he saw.
“It was a big surprise. Very fast, he created a lot of chances,” the Spanish legend said in a press conference after the match.
“We miss two or three chances because of him. So a big player and a big future. He’s a talent.”
Earlier this month, the Australian national team called up Garang for friendlies against New Zealand as the Socceroos prepare for the 2022 World Cup.
His performance in the second match last weekend made him the youngest player to represent Australia since Harry Kewell.
It was an eye-catching display from the bench, where his explosive speed and fearless attitude led to a late penalty after he was hacked down in midfield.
Demands for coach Graham Arnold to select him now for Australia’s World Cup campaign have gained momentum.
It would be unreal,” Garang told Stan Sport FC.
“I remember Tim Cahill’s goal in 2014 against the Netherlands. Me and my brother (Alou) recreated it in our backyard and smashed windows.”
With Australia facing France in the opening match, Garang has a chance to announce himself on the biggest stage. Perhaps, should he score, there will be children imitating him in years to come in their own gardens.