From humble beginnings as a refugee in Africa, Heidelberg United striker Kenny Athiu refuses to limit his football dream.
Athiu doesn't remember when he and his family fled the civil war in Sudan when he was just four.
He does, however, remember living in Kenya until he was 11 before fleeing in 2004 and arriving to a cold Melbourne winter.
Athiu finished the Victorian NPL regular season with 17 goals in 22 games helping the Warriors claim runner-up honours behind Bentleigh Greens.
Heidelberg will play for a spot in the grand final when they take on South Melbourne in a block buster semi-final this weekend.
And after the best season of his two-year career, the 24-year-old is dreaming big.
“I want to make it as far as I can,” Athiu said.
“I know if I always play to the best of my ability it would give me more opportunity. To be honest I don’t put limits or too much expectation to where I want to end up. I want how I’m performing and the work I’m putting in to take me to where I feel I deserve to be.”
Athiu added, “So far it’s been a decent season. I’m really happy with my progress last year to this year. Not just goals wise but performce wise. I feel more confident and I feel like I adapted to the level and I have actually been enjoying the season so far - it’s been great.”
Even though his form in the NPL has been eye-catching, Athiu says he hasn’t garnered any interest from A-League clubs.
But the talent believes he can make the step to the professional ranks.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone,” he said. “I’ve heard rumours but personally no-one has approached me. Obviously if I get the opportunity I would grab it with both hands and we’ll see how it goes from there.”
But one group who have no doubt about Athiu’s talent are the Heidelberg supporters who have given their star striker the nickname “King Kenny”
“I enjoy it, I love it, I love everything about it,” he said.
“I don’t go around bragging about being King Kenny because it doesn’t match the type of person I am, but it’s great fun.
“I’ve grown up being grateful with everything. My parents struggled to bring us into the country and to bring us up and gave us an opportunity by coming to Australia. With their dedication, you just have to look at life and be grateful. It’s shaped me to be a humble person.”
His coach George Kastakis says Athiu is one of the main factors behind the team’s success.
He said his star striker has the goods to make it at the proffesional level.
“He’s been massive,” he said. “He’s been our target man since round one. He’s scored 17 goals and he missed five or six games
“He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached. He listens, he wants to learn and he wants to make it as a footballer. His ties with his family are very strong. Probably at times his first touch and he’s ability to be able to bring other people into play could be a little bit better, but other that in a full time environment he’d be totally different player.”
Photo by Mark Avellino