From an Egyptian refugee camp to the Socceroos. Garang Kuol’s journey to the top is one of remarkable dedication and perseverance against the odds. Kuol is poised to become the youngest Australian to ever play at the FIFA World Cup. Touted as Australian football’s next superstar, the rising star’s future is so bright it could blind you.
Think about what you were doing at the age of 18. You probably weren’t on your way to the World Cup with the weight of an entire nation’s hopes on your shoulders. That scenario is the stuff of childhood dreams, but for Garang Kuol, it’s a reality. Kuol burst onto the Socceroos radar after tearing up the A-League. Originally regarded as a promising young talent for the future, Kuol has quickly risen through the ranks to become the type of player Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold couldn’t pass up.
Arnold was full of praise for the youngster after giving Kuol a spot on the plane to Qatar and believes he can be a game changer for the Socceroos. “When we talk about an impact player, someone that can have a one v one individual action and change a game, I think Garang Kuol is that one.”
Despite his rapid ascension to the national team, Kuol is yet to start a game at club level. But the rising star didn’t need to start to prove he has what it takes to play at the top level. Kuol has created a reputation as a ‘super-sub’ for the Central Coast Mariners of the A-League. The type of player that when injected into the line-up late in a game, possesses the perfect combination of lethal speed and deadly skill to change the outcome.
In just ten appearances in the A-League, all of which as a substitute, Kuol has scored four times and bagged three assists. Australian fans will be hoping Kuol can replicate his ability to make an immediate impact from the bench later this month in Qatar.
Kuol’s rise has also garnered overseas interest. The upstarts of the English Premier League, Newcastle United, have had their eyes on Kuol and snapped him up for $500,000 AUD in August. Kuol will head over to England shortly after the Socceroos World Cup campaign, joining Newcastle once the transfer window opens on January 1st.
Newcastle were recently bought by a wealthy Saudi-led ownership group. Becoming the richest team in the world. After years of bouncing between England’s first and second division, the Magpies now sit third in the Premier league and look like they’ll become a dominating force in European football. Kuol has an opportunity to establish himself as a key player with these burgeoning giants.
While he now has the world at his feet, Kuol has had a rocky path to success. Kuol’s parents hail from South Sudan and fled their home country to escape war. They ended up in a refugee camp in Egypt, where Kuol was born. When he was six years old, Kuol and his family made the journey as refugees to Shepparton in Victoria.
Kuol grew up watching the Socceroos and playing football for local teams in Shepparton. A standout player in his youth, he credits the support of the Shepparton community as what allowed him to continue to develop his game.
After joining the youth system of the Central Coast Mariners when he was 16, Kuol quickly worked his way into the senior side. He debuted for the Mariners as a substitute against APIA Leichhardt in the FFA Cup, scoring his first senior level goal after only seven minutes of action. In his A-League debut against Wellington Phoenix, it only took Kuol five minutes to find the back of the net. The rest is history.
After a stellar season Kuol was selected in the A-League All Stars team to face Spanish juggernauts Barcelona. In front of a crowd of 70,000 Kuol stole the show, repeatedly embarrassing defenders and creating chances out of nowhere in the eventual 3-2 loss.
Not long after his dazzling performance against Barcelona, Kuol made his debut for the Socceroos in a friendly against New Zealand. Despite basically being a kid himself, Kuol had some words of encouragement for the next generation after the game, “I want to inspire young kids to dream big, the sky is the limit.”
Garang isn’t the only pro footballer in his family. His older brother Alou also played for the Mariners and blazed a path for Garang to follow. Alou scored six goals in his first nine A-League games, drawing interest from German team VfB Stuttgart. Alou has since become a solid player in Germany and regularly features for the Australian under-23 national team. He even scored a goal of the year contender for Australia at the under-23 Asia Cup.
Playing at the world cup doesn’t guarantee success. Assuming he takes the field in Qatar, Kuol will overtake Daniel Arzani for the title of youngest Socceroo. Arzani was 19 when he played at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He was once considered a future star, but a series of injuries delayed Arzani’s development and caused him to lose his place in the Socceroos team.
Now 23, Arzani has revived his career with Macarthur FC in the A-League. While he didn’t quite make the Socceroos squad for Qatar, Arzani is back on the right path and looks like he’ll continue to improve his game until he becomes a fixture in the Australian national team.
The Socceroos will kick off their World Cup Campaign on November 23rd against France, with Garang Kuol keen to make an impact. Graham Arnold had a message for his young star ahead of the World Cup, “Just go out there and enjoy yourself, son, and show us what you can do. Show the world what you can do”.