NEWCASTLE fans might get their first glimpse of wonderkid Garang Kuol at the World Cup, if he makes Australia's squad.
Eddie Howe's side moved quick 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 transfer was struck, 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 for Egypt, where he was born, finally arriving in Australia as refugees.
Now, he could be heading to the World Cup as a wildcard in Qatar.
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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 his family moved from Khartoum to Egypt when Alou was just three – a year before Garang was born in 2004.
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After a year there, they moved again to Australia, where they settled as refugees.
His father, Mawien, and mother, Antonita, worked as dry cleaners, while Antonita also had a job as a seasonal worker at a fruit factory.
But football became the biggest passion for the boys.
In their spare time, Garang and his brother would watch an old VHS tape of Australia's World Cup highlights – dreaming to emulate their heroes.
“It was basically a mash-up of one of the World Cups, the key moments put into one 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 just remember players like [Mark] Bresciano, Tim Cahill and stuff. We used to watch that, legit, like every day, the same tape. It was one of the sickest things ever.”
Following his dreams
Garang's route into football mirrored his older brother.
He played youth team football for Goulburn Valley Suns, and then was 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 from the bench in the 5-0 rout of Wellington Phoenix.
His blistering start to life as a pro 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-Leagues All Stars Game against Barcelona.
70,000 fans crammed into Sydney's Olympic Stadium to see Garang take centre stage.
A highlight of his skills saw him waltz past four Barcelona stars, before narrowly missing the target. He also hit the post late on in the game the All Stars lost 3-2.
Barça manager Xavi was impressed with what he saw.
"It was a big surprise. Very fast, he created many chances," the Spanish legend said in a press conference after the game.
"We concede two or three chances because of him. So a great player and a great future. He's a talent."
World Cup chance
Earlier this month, the Australia national team called up Garang for their friendlies against New Zealand, as the Socceroos gear up for the 2022 World Cup.
His appearance in the second game 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 awarded after he was hacked down in mid-flight in the box.
The clamour for coach Graham Arnold to pick him now for Australia's World Cup campaign has gathered pace.
It would be unreal," Garang told Stan Sport FC.
"I remember Tim Cahill's goal in 2014 against Netherlands. Me and my brother (Alou) were re-making that in our backyard, breaking windows."
With Australia facing France in their opening match, Garang has a chance to announce himself on the biggest stage. Perhaps, should he score, there will be kids emulating him in years to come in their own gardens.
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