The next big thing in Australian rules football is here, and his name is Garang Kuol.
At just 18 years old, Kuol has gone from up-and-coming talent to bona fide Socceroos star in a staggering 12-month blast. Now, he has been named in the Australian team to play in the World Cup in Qatar.
Assuming he takes the field, the winger will be Australia’s youngest player at a men’s World Cup, surpassing the Socceroos’ flashy Russia 2018 striker Daniel Arzani.
Announcing the youngster’s inclusion today, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said: “Shouldn’t this be the most exciting time? You know, an 18-year-old guy who just came out of nowhere and is on a new journey in life.
“We’ve seen this kind of thing happen many times before at World Cups and mass games, where unknown players come out and shock the whole country.”
And amazingly, Kuol has yet to start a single game for the Central Coast Mariners.
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The boy (Kuol) just needs to be himself | 01:21
Born in an Egyptian refugee camp after his family fled Sudan, Kuol ended up in Shepparton, Victoria.
His older brother Alou forged a remarkable path in football for Garang to follow. After tearing up his rivals for the Goulburn Valley Suns in Victoria’s NPL2, the then-teenager was not picked up by Melbourne Victory after a month trial, and was also overlooked after a trial at Western United. His mistake.
Nick Montgomery, now the head coach of the Central Coast Mariners, was in charge of the club’s youth program in 2019. He was told of the young striker’s talent, brought him through the academy, and quickly into the first team, where Alou Kuol six goals. in the first nine games of the 2020-21 A-League season.
Kuol melts the internet with a crazy scorpion | 00:32
When the Mariners discovered Alou had a younger brother, also quick, also technically gifted, also brimming with confidence, also a deadly scorer, they wasted no time bringing him to the Central Coast in January 2021. He had been dominating for Goulburn Valley. . Suns senior team at the age of 15, just like Alou before him.
“Garang came into the picture and the way he was tearing these veteran players apart, players who had literally retired from the professional game, was just phenomenal to watch,” Craig Carley, his then-coach, told KeepUp.
At the end of the 2020-21 season, Alou signed a five-year contract with VfB Stuttgart in Germany. Now, at 21 years old, he is fighting in the ranks of that club.
After Alou left the Mariners, his younger brother was dropped to the senior team. In December 2021, Kuol made his Mariners debut against APIA Leichhardt in the FFA Cup, scoring just seven minutes after coming off the bench.
Knee surgery briefly delayed his A-League debut, but it was only a matter of time. In April this year he came off the bench against Wellington Phoenix and saw the back of the net five minutes later. Montgomery could hardly believe his luck. Alou Kuol had been a revelation, and here was another teenage sensation straight out of Shepparton scoring goals for fun.
And meanwhile, Alou had told everyone who would listen that Garang was better than him.
The charismatic star became the Mariners’ game-breaking specialist off the bench, hitting four times and notching one assist in nine appearances, playing just 189 total game minutes.
When Barcelona came to town in May, Kuol was called up to the A-League All Stars team and stole the show against the European giants in front of 70,000 fans. In a dazzling cameo from the bench, Kuol put his name in the spotlight, particularly with a 60-meter run in which he danced through the Spanish defense before blasting the ball out of the net. He hit the woodwork later, and while he didn’t hit the back of the net, the teenager did more than enough to make the world stand up and take notice.
Barcelona coach Xavi said after the match: “It was a big surprise. (He is) very fast, he created a lot of chances and we conceded two or three chances because of him. So a great player and a great future. He is a talent.
Offers came in plentiful and fast from European clubs in the biggest leagues: Germany, like its brother Italy, and then the biggest of them all: England and the Premier League. In late September, a move was finally announced. Kuol had signed a long-term contract with Newcastle United. He will move there in January after the World Cup, but he is likely to be loaned out immediately to a European club, given that he will almost certainly not yet qualify for a UK work permit.
Just days before that announcement, Kuol had made his debut for the Socceroos, becoming the youngest player to represent Australia since Harry Kewell in 1996. And, unsurprisingly, he held his own. Kuol showed off his breakneck pace with a sprint down the sideline before flipping the ball to Mariners teammate Jason Cummings, whose shot was blocked by the arm of a New Zealand defender. Out of nowhere, Kuol had given the Socceroos a penalty, and Cummings wasn’t wrong.
Former footballer Robbie Slater told Fox Sports News: “Every time he touched the ball, something happened… he has an unbelievable ability to beat his man one-on-one. He has a lot of pace, power.”
Arnold said today: “I brought him to camp against New Zealand. He fit in very well in the Socceroo family. And really (he is) a player who has absolutely no fear, he just goes out there and wants to entertain. He did that against New Zealand.”
Kuol was then called up to Australia’s Under-20s, played three qualifiers in Kuwait for next year’s Under-20 World Cup, and bagged a long-range scream against India.
He returned to Australia and the Mariners, and on Saturday he delivered another eye-catching effort off the bench: two assists in quick succession to wreck a tight clash with the Western Sydney Wanderers who were goalless before his arrival.
Kuol continues good streak with the U-20 | 00:31
Kuol showed his hunger for impact by sliding past Wadnerers defender Ruon Tongyik, stealing the ball in the WSW box and deflecting it to Michael Ruhs to score. Six minutes later, Kuol delivered a perfect ball to the edge of the goal for Ruhs to double his count.
Calls to take him to Qatar turned into a deafening roar. Kuol had done everything that was asked of him at every stage: against Barcelona, New Zealand, A-League rivals and India’s Under-20s. He has shown himself capable of scoring, setting up goals, defending firmly and generally making a decisive impact off the bench.
“He has shown from the start of the A-League this season that he is a player who can change the game,” said Arnold. “When we talk about an impact player, the player who can do something different for us, someone who can have individual 1v1 action and change the moment of a game, I think Garang Kuol is that.”
With the weight of a nation on the shoulders of a youngster, the World Cup can be an overwhelming experience. But Arnold’s message to the 18-year-old is simple.
“He just needs to be himself. He does it every week. He is excited about Australia. He has shown it against Barcelona. He showed me against New Zealand in those moments, the way he can change the game in 1v1 action.
“It’s like backyard football, where I say, ‘Just go out and have some fun, son, and show us what you can do. Show the world what you can do.’
“That will be the message for him because those are his strengths. I will not send him to play on his weaknesses, it is about playing on his strengths. And it’s about making Australia proud.”
Kuol stars in the victory of the Mariners | 01:05