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Boy versus A-League: How a fearless Ymer Abili took on Macarthur FC

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15th September, 2022

He was just a kid. Some National Premier League youngster from Victoria, dressed in orange.

Substituted for Oakleigh’s keeper late in the dying minutes their Australia Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.

Yet, he made headlines across the country.

Waiting patiently on the sidelines was Ymer Abili. Some pundits said he was 14 years-old, others 13. Already, the legendary tales had started.

When the vocal Jack Edward Reserve crowd roared, first-choice keeper Lewis Italiano acknowledged the Cannon’s faithful. Smiling, he could see Abili pacing in the distance, wearing his gloves. A reassuring pat on the shoulder by his coach followed. It was time.

Knowing he was being substituted, a beaming Italiano marched up to his fellow goalie, ruffling Abili’s mop of dark hair. Although looking identical in matching jerseys, a difference in height suddenly became apparent, as the six-foot-three Italiano towered over the lucky tyke.

As Abili ran past the temporary video camera scaffolding, social media buzzed with excitement. A few fans commented about the intimidating size of the goalmouth. Others speculated if he was the youngest ever Australia Cup player.

Ymer Abili high fives Oskar Dillon of the Cannons.

Ymer Abili high fives Oskar Dillon of the Cannons. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)


In the end, our newest football sensation let his proud mother do the talking.

“I was a nervous wreck,” she grinned, speaking to reporters after the event.

When quizzed on her son’s inclusion, it was discovered Ymer was asked to join the bench a few weeks ago, during Oakleigh’s quarter-final match with Sydney FC.

Apparently, the phone call from management had come just before mealtime.

“We were eating dinner,” Mrs Abili continued, reminiscing. “I nearly choked on my food!”

When reporters asked our young shot-stopper if he should have come on earlier, Abili cheerfully shrugged, slightly bemused.

“I was buzzing,” he said, having been told to warm up in the 85th minute. “So happy.”


And he was, standing next to his proud mum.

“Just excited to go on,” he resumed, dismissing any apprehension projected by the circling commentary team.

Macarthur might have convincingly won the match 5-2, but it was Abili who put his memorable stamp on the occasion.

“Make history,” he simply stated, referring to his age. “That’s it.”

The Australia Cup final will be held in Sydney on Saturday, October 1. Macarthur takes on Sydney United. The venue is yet to be confirmed.

A return plane ticket from Melbourne Airport to Kingsford Smith will set you back a few hundred dollars. More if you’re going business class.


Or, if the Bulls come to the party, it could be complimentary. That’s one way how to celebrate football’s newest hero, because the Australia Cup needs all the positive attention it can get.