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Irankunda sensationally turns down Olyroos spot in baffling update - and Vidmar left in lurch on eve of qualifying

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9th April, 2024
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Nestory Irankunda has sensationally rejected the chance to play at the Paris Olympics this June after a late bid from the Olyroos to include the teenage wonderkid, according to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Celtic winger Marco Tilio, currently on loan at Melbourne City, was chosen instead of the Adelaide United star in the initial squad for the Under-23 Asian Cup, which is also a vital Olympic qualifier, but subsequently picked up an injury to his quad, prompting Football Australia to sound out Irankunda to come in.

The 18-year-old, however, has reportedly knocked back the offer and will instead complete the season with Adelaide before transferring to German giants Bayern Munich.

The decision begs questions of the higher-ups at Football Australia (FA), who did not include Irankunda in the initial squad but tapped him on the shoulder when Tilio, a player who has missed most of the season in Scotland and subsequently in Australia with multiple fitness issues, got injured again.

As the tournament falls outside of a traditional international window, clubs do not have to release players.

Louis D’Arrigo has been withdrawn by his club, Lechia Gdansk, who are in a race for promotion to the Polish top flight, even though they had previously written to FA suggesting that the player could take part.

“We had been in discussions with Lechia for some time about Louis’ availability for this tournament, unfortunately they’ve decided that he’s required to remain in Poland,” coach Tony Vidmar said.

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“We understand and respect the position of the club, and I’ve made my frustration at the timing of this tournament, and its impact on player availability known for several months.

“That being said, it’s certainly disappointing to have things change like this at the last minute, when all our preparation had been done on the proviso Louis would be available.”

Irankunda meanwhile has been tearing up the A-League with four goals and two assists in his last four games, fast becoming the hottest property in the league.

Quietly they will be happy that he has turned the chance to play at the Olympics down as he will have a farewell match at Hindmarsh Stadium on Friday night before United go on a three-game road trip to round out the season.

Had he gone away with the Olyroos, he would likely have missed all four games with the tournament due to start next Monday.

Now, it will be unlikely that he is selected for the final squad, assuming Australia qualify for the Olympics. They have to at least reach the semifinals to stand a chance with the top three advancing directly and the fourth place playing off with Guinea, from the African Confederation.

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Irankunda had been left out of the squad with the reasoning from coach Tony Vidmar that it would be a better fit to manage his workload after a full season in the A-League and an impending move to Munich.

“With Nestor, we have to be really mindful,” Vidmar said at the time.

“He’s just such an emotional player, and what’s happened to him this season, I think he’s on a rollercoaster 24/7. That’s just the way he is. That’s the way it’s gone, and we have to look at the bigger picture.”

“We want Nestor to be a 10-year-plus Socceroo. He’s going to be the future of the national teams, that’s for sure.

“We just have to be mindful of what we do with him in the national team space. At the moment, we don’t want to damage him.

“The welfare of the player is No.1. He’s just turned 18, and it’s a big ask for him to come in, (with) all these expectations from people outside.”

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