Socceroos squad debutant Ruon Tongyik has spoken about what an Australian call-up means to him, after a sensational A-League season with Central Coast Mariners.
Tongyik was selected in Graham Arnold's 33-man Socceroos squad, becoming one of three new A-League faces alongside Denis Genreau and Conor Metcalfe.
Tongyik has starred this season in an unlikely turnaround for the Mariners, that sees his club sit third in the A-League, based partly on the centreback's commanding defensive abilities.
The 24-year-old, who moved to Australia when he was six, told the Mariners what the call up meant to him.
“It’s a privilege to be called up to represent Australia, it’s something I have always wanted to accomplish,” he said.
“Just to be selected, I am very honoured and very proud.”
“Australia welcomed me and my family with open arms, and the opportunity I have been given to play professional football and now to represent, I can only give back to the country that has given me basically everything.”
“I think being amongst the best of the best in Australia is very exciting, and I want to learn from everybody.
“I have obviously seen Australian games and the names that are included and I’m excited to be in the mix with them and I think I’ll learn so much from them.”
Tongyik's story is rather sensational. He was forced to flee South Sudan as a child and came to Australia as a refugee.
He then bounced around A-League clubs before the Mariners enabled a quieter life, with time to settle into the domestic league and build his game.
Among other things, he's credited an unlikely friendship and mentorship with an elderly neighbour, as helping to turn his life and professional career into the stellar success it is today.
He now becomes the first Mariner to play for the Socceroos since Mitch Duke, as the club slowly builds towards a return to the days when many of the Socceroos' brightest stars began their careers in Gosford.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for Ruon and well deserved after the season that he’s had,” Mariners coach, Alen Stajcic said.
“It’s a sign of where we are building back to. Ruon will be our first Mariner to play for the Socceroos while at the Club since Mitchell Duke, we have boys like Kye and Gianni in the mix for the Olympics and have had two European transfers in the last two years.”
“It’s an exciting time for this club at the moment and we wish Ruon all the best during his time away.”