Sydney FC's Joel King was five when the A-League kicked off in 2005.
Watching the A-League with his mum and dad, the energetic kid from the beachside hamlet of Shell Cove, near Wollongong, became a Sydney FC fan instantly.
Supporting the great names of yesteryear: Dwight Yorke, Mark Rudan, Steve Corica, and others, the Sky Blues won a historic first-ever A-League Championship in Season 1 in early 2006.
These Sky Blue greats inspired the kid from the ‘Gong to do the same.
After matches and after school, he’d be smashing footballs into the back of his family’s back fence - irritating the hell out of his neighbors - alongside brother Scott and older sister Taren (who has gone on to become a W-League star at Canberra United).
The King Clan enjoyed a sunny, outdoors lifestyle and always had a sibling on hand to help refine their skills.
But it was mum and dad who did the hard yards, driving the King kids across the state and up to Sydney for training week in week out.
In a familiar tale: Mum wanted Joel to play football rather than their Dad’s sport of Rugby League. It was safer, she felt.
Mum’s strategic move paid off.
Thirteen years later, after signing a pro contract, now 18-year-old Sydney FC full-back Joel King has debuted in the A-League. And he debuted in the Asian Champions League against some of the region’s biggest clubs.
“I started soccer when I was five,” King tells FTBL after his last training session of the season at Macquarie.
“Ever since then I was supporting the A-League. And of course, I’m a Sydney FC supporter as well.
“I’d go to school, play soccer in the playground all lunch and recess, and I’d go home and keep hitting the ball at the back fence when I got home.
“I’d kick the ball against the fence and the neighbors weren’t very happy because it was so loud.
“The ball would go over the fence and they wouldn’t give it back so I’d have to get a new ball.
“I’d go ask for it and they wouldn’t answer the door!”
What those neighbors didn’t realise or appreciate at the time is each kick, each pass, each control of the ball got King closer to his dream.
“Shell Cove was good,” King continues. “It was quiet and quite new.
"I had plenty of time to play out the front, kick the ball with friends and my neighbors' kids.
“And when I wasn’t at soccer I was at the beach.
“I should go back and tell those neighbors who weren’t happy with me, who I play for now… maybe they’re still not happy with me though!”