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If it wasn't for Irankunda, every A-League headline would be negative right now

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Expert
31st March, 2024
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The sight of dozens of Adelaide United supporters lining up to secure an autograph from the club’s outgoing teenage sensation Nestory Irankunda was a reminder the A-League still has fans.

We’ve been waiting a while for that kind of performance from Irankunda.

He’s a superstar in the making, but at times he’s let a lack of emotional maturity blunt his effectiveness and prompt coach Carl Veart to put him back to the bench this season.

But he’s capable of winning games on his own, and so it proved on Friday night as the Munich-bound 18-year-old simply tore Western United to shreds.

His first goal was quintessential Irankunda, as he smashed an unerring drive across his body and into the far corner of Matt Sutton’s goal.

Nestory Irankunda of Adelaide United celebrates scoring a goal

Nestory Irankunda of Adelaide United celebrates a goal. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

But it was his second goal that will have Bayern’s top brass giddy with anticipation, after the teenager turned on the afterburners to race clear from the second-half restart and side-foot home a tidy finish to put the Reds two goals to the good.

That Irankunda was smart enough to set up and head home his third goal was the icing on the cake.

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He’s too good for the A-League.

And while he has a long, tough slog in front of him to get anywhere near Bayern’s first team, he’s got all the attributes to make a difference in the Bundesliga.

But will Olyroos coach Tony Vidmar select him in his upcoming Under-23 Asian Cup squad?

It seems almost inconceivable that a player of Irankunda’s talent would be overlooked for Australia’s underage teams.

There’s been a lot of talk around ‘managing’ Irankunda’s precocious abilities – and Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has so far resisted overtures to cap the youngster and tie him definitively to Australia once and for all.

But with a spot in the Paris Olympics on the line and with Australian football crying out for genuine attackers, surely Vidmar adds the 18-year-old to the squad that recently lost the West Asian Football Federation Final to South Korea on penalties?

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It’s a shame the Reds will themselves miss out on finals football – maybe they’d have come closer if Irankunda had started throughout the season – but at least we got to actually see the game on Friday night.

The revelation that the A-League’s broadcast producer Global Advance has gone belly-up was another humiliating blow in a season that has been jam-packed with them.

At least the Australian Professional Leagues managed to scramble and find an alternative broadcaster producer in NEP at the 11th hour.

The broadcasts actually looked better over the weekend, even if one camera operator at Leichhardt Oval was forced to resort to using their phone’s notes app to get a message out to the director as Sydney FC’s women’s team slumped to a premiership-deciding 4-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

But questions should be asked of why the APL spent millions on digital arm KeepUp while cutting costs on broadcast production, not to mention how many more millions it will cost them to actually screen the league again next season.

It’s not like there’s no money or interest in football in this part of the world.

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I headed up to Wynnum Wolves on Saturday to have a chat with former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Paul Lambert for beIN Sports, and the set-up they’ve got out at Carmichael Park is one of the best I’ve seen at that level.

If a team at NPL Queensland level can manage a tie-in with Borussia Dortmund – Wynnum signed a two-year deal in 2023 to become an official youth development partner with the Bundesliga giants – you have to wonder what A-League clubs are doing.

Perhaps Irankunda will open a few more doors once he arrives in Germany.

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The local lad rising through the ranks to take on the world is the story the APL should be marketing.

It remains to be seen how much more we see of Nestory in the A-League.

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But it’s impossible to deny he’s been one of the competition’s few bright sparks over the past couple of seasons.

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