FROM goalkeeper to striker, they are the fans who turned into players for the team and the area they belong to.
Across the A-League, young fans in the grandstand, ballboys on the side of the pitch and schoolchildren in holiday camps turned their dreams into reality and got to wear that special shirt for real.
Tando Velaphi (Perth Glory)
“When I first started at the club almost 15 years ago, it was a very surreal feeling to be on the other side of the fence so to speak and be playing alongside guys I was aspiring to be like as fan. Even now I feel very privileged to be able to represent a club that has such a rich history going back to the NSL days.
“It would be great to think I might inspire young fans to want to follow in my footsteps. There’s a lot of great young talent here in WA and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we see more of them take the next step and play for Glory.”
Dan Wilmering (Western Sydney Wanderers)
“Playing for this club feels amazing, it’s a dream come true. Going to the games at (the old) Parramatta Stadium, the fans were very into it and very passionate. I try to replicate that passion on the field. I’ve got some great memories as a fan - the (5-4) semifinal win against Brisbane, the Asian Champions League final first leg at home, even just marching with the RBB to the stadium.
“Young players playing for the club they grew up supporting is great for football because they play with passion. We’re seeing it more and more around the league.”
Matt Hatch (Mariners)
“Playing for the Mariners has always been a dream of mine. Sitting with the Yellow Army and seeing how much support the team was getting, I knew I wanted to play in front of a home crowd like that. I can’t really put it into words.
“I have a few really vivid memories being a fan for the Mariners, one would have to be being at the 2012/13 Grand Final against the Wanderers in Sydney where we ended up winning, the atmosphere was incredible. Another would be ballboying an Asian Champions League game at Central Coast Stadium where it was pretty much sold out, the fans were crazy.”
Jordan Elsey (Adelaide)
“I have so many fond memories of going to home games as a kid. Being a fan, first and foremost, makes it all so much more unique and I still consider myself lucky to wear red.”
“I remember the first game at Hindmarsh, this really electric aura in the air at the stadium and it was like nothing I’d experienced before – especially only being nine-years-old. There was a guy that parachuted onto the pitch with a flare too, which was pretty awesome to see as a kid.
“I’m very proud to be South Australian and when I see young South Aussies coming through our youth team and playing their first professional game, that is something really special.”
Dylan Pierias (Western United)
“Playing for a club in an area where I’ve grown up is special – I feel like it gives me extra motivation to try even harder out on the pitch. I just want to make the people of the west so proud and realise that we fight for each other.
“I hope I can inspire young players from the west to give it a fair crack. When young fans come to a game and see me play, if it gives them a dream then that would be awesome.”
Clayton Lewis (Wellington)
“My favourite players to meet as a young fan were Leo Bertos and Kosta Barbarouses as I played for Wellington Olympic growing up, so felt I had the Greek connection I guess. They always made the extra effort with me which is always greatly appreciated.
“I had great people around me growing up when football wasn’t as big as it is now, but now we can do more, and I want to do what I can to help inspire the younger generations coming through. I hope we can get back to Wellington soon, and I can do my bit in the community to give back.”
Jake Brimmer (Melbourne Victory)
“Growing up as a Victory member, it was always my dream to play for club. I feel extremely proud to pull on the club shirt and I get goosebumps every time I walk out in front of our loyal members and fans. It really is a dream come true.
“I was at the 2007 Grand Final, watching Archie Thompson just dominate Adelaide with five goals. So having grown up idolising the Victory players, I want to help inspire young boys and girls who follow the club and who want to play football. It’s part of the responsibility of being a professional footballer and I hope I can inspire the next generation of Victory players.”
Jesse Daley (Brisbane Roar)
“I was at the first game in 2005 against New Zealand Knights, so I've been supporting the club since day one. My happiest memories are the team winning championships in my early teenage years. They're the moments that stick out.
“I was a big Matty McKay fan. But we had so many good players in that era. I was kind of in love with the team and the brand of football we played. Now I want to inspire the next generation. I was in their position once upon a time. Hopefully, in 10-15 years' time, they're the ones pulling on the jersey and looking back and remembering the good times that this team gave them.”
Blake Archbold (Newcastle)
“Like any young player, your first dream is to play for the club you support. Seeing the players on TV and Live at games, I always put myself in the position of being out on the field like them. As a 12 year old, I had the opportunity to attend a Newcastle Jets training session. I was able to watch the team train, meet the players, have photos and autographs and look through the training facility. Now, 7 years later, I am apart of the squad using those same facilities and training fields like the players I looked up to on that day.
“I would love for young players in our area to see that working hard and doing their best can lead to exciting opportunities. Setting yourself goals, along with having the right mindset and drive for the game can lead to rewarding opportunities.”
Jordy Swibel (Sydney FC)
“The memory that sticks out the most for me would have to be my first time in The Cove. I’d always wanted to sit with them but my dad was tentative to let me go because I was only 10 years old. So he would let me go and stand near Bay 23 so he could keep an eye on me.
“A few weeks went by and I would make my way closer and closer into the middle, then one week I found myself in the centre of it all, linking arms with these random guys and singing: “Jump up in The Cove”. That made me fall in love with football and Sydney FC.
“If just one kid is inspired by my story, then that’s enough.”
Stefan Colakovski (Melbourne City)
“It is hard to put into words how I feel to play for City. I have supported the club since it since I was 10 years old and always dreamed of playing at AAMI Park in front of the fans. Now I get to live that dream.
“At the first ever Melbourne derby, John Aloisi celebrated right in front of where me and my family were sitting when he scored. To win the first ever derby was massive for the fans and I still remember that game almost 11 years on. All the young boys and girls who support us should reach for the stars and believe that one day they can be lining up for City.”
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