‘El Gráfico’ was a hugely influential Argentinian monthly sports journal with a naturally heavy emphasis on football.
In 1928 its editor, Borocoto, published an eerily prescient article that described the “pibe” – a mythical player who he believed to be the ultimate distillation of what an Argentine footballer should look like, and how they should approach the game:
“… a dirty face, a mane of hair rebelling against the comb; with intelligent, roving, trickster and persuasive eyes and a sparkling gaze that seems to hint at a picaresque laugh that does not quite manage to form on his mouth, full of small teeth that might be worn down through eating yesterday’s bread.”
Borocoto of course was describing Diego Maradona some 32 years before Diego was even born.
In a funny way, Rhyan Grant strikes me as a thoroughly 2021, Australian version of the “pibe” (before anyone spits out their drink, it is obviously not a comparison of ability!)
As we’ve heard many times, Rhyan Grant is from Canowindra. As we’ve also heard and seen many times, he had a now dearly-departed mullet, surfs, loves the Penrith Panthers, seems like a bit of a laugh and comes across as down-to-earth as a professional athlete can be.
On the pitch, Grant runs himself into the ground every game, is fit as a mallee bull, delivers pinpoint crosses, scores goals (big goals), defends stoically and never shirks a challenge of any sort.
Combined with his Triple J aesthetic, he seems to embody all the great traits we look for in our footballers, and his undisputed starting right back role for the Socceroos is ample reward for someone who exudes genuine passion for the national team.
Perhaps the best feature of Grant’s career arc so far, from hard-working beginnings in regional NSW to current gun for club and country, is the fact that he’s done it all in front of a local audience.
We are constantly told that the A-League isn’t good enough for development, and that players with talent and potential need to up sticks at the first sign of an overseas offer.
Grant meanwhile has stayed the course at Sydney FC his whole career, continuously improving year-on-year, suffering and returning from two devastating ACL injuries, and is now arguably at the peak of his powers. This is a bloke who is extracting every ounce of ability from himself.
While there is no doubt an overseas move is still a distinct possibility, the fact he has been so committed to Sydney FC marks him out as an important figure for the game here, as he is living proof that you can live the dream of playing for the Socceroos and concurrently carve out a high-level career in the A-League.
On a personal level, the arrival of his mullet, and its subsequent social media fame, actually re-piqued my interest in the A-League, as I had allowed myself to drift away from it’s goings-on while living overseas for five years.
Needless to say, I’ve never looked back, and love the A-League as much as I ever have now, all thanks to Rhyan Grant.
‘Buster’, as he is affectionately known, turns 30 this week, and what I hope we see and hear more of in the oncoming Autumn of his career is robust discussion and an appreciation for his totemic standing in the A-League and Australian Football in general.