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Irankunda wants Roos call-up but won't rule out switch

3 minute read

Nestory Irankunda says his dream is to play for the Socceroos but he would be prepared to switch to Tanzania or Burundi if he continues to be overlooked.

 GRAHAM ARNOLD. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Bayern Munich-bound wunderkind Nestory Irankunda won't rule out a switch of international allegiances if he continues to be overlooked for Socceroos squads.

Irankunda, 18, said it was his "dream" to play for Australia but he is also eligible to play for Tanzania and Burundi.

He was called up for Australia in March, 2023, as a train-on player without debuting but hasn't featured in a squad since, while he was also overlooked for the Olyroos' U23 Asian Cup squad this year.

Irankunda was left out of that tournament based on concerns over his perceived maturity, but delivered an impressive season with Adelaide United, recording eight goals and six assists.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold will pick his squad this coming week for World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh and Palestine.

Asked if it was his hope that his move to Europe would help him gain more time with the Socceroos, Irankunda said: "It was. But as of now I'm not too sure on how things are gonna go.

"I haven't been called up for a few of the squads now. I'm still thinking on what I'm gonna do in the future, national level. So we'll see.

"I'm still eligible for Tanzania, Burundi as well.

"But obviously it's a dream of mine to play for the Socceroos and if the opportunity comes again then hopefully it comes soon and I take it."

When pressed on whether he could see himself playing for another country if his situation didn't change, Irankunda said, "Yeah, of course".

Irankunda played 20 minutes off the bench in the A-League Men All Stars' 8-0 win over a youthful Newcastle United outfit on Friday night.

With Arnold in the stands, Irankunda recorded an assist and was blistering down the right wing.

"I reckon I showed the people at the game what I can do and hopefully Arnie has seen it. If not, then I can't really say much," said Irankunda, who was born to Burundian parents in a Tanzanian refugee camp.

Irankunda, who is joining Bayern on a long-term contract, gained a confidence boost from performing against Premier League youth players.

"I was pretty nervous before coming on," he said.

"But then obviously I felt more relaxed after the first few minutes and now I'm really confident now going over to Europe.

"It's gonna be great to try something new. One of the best clubs in the world."

Socceroos striker Adam Taggart was adamant the 18-year-old had the tools to succeed in Europe.

All Stars coach Patrick Kisnorbo defended his decision to limit Irankunda to a substitute role and said he'd looked to "protect" the youngster amid the hype around him.

"He's a flamboyant boy," he said with a grin.

"These kids, they need a bit of direction.

"With the little time I had with him, I wanted to just tell him what he's walking himself into. To understand what environments at the highest level are like.

"He took it all on board. He's a great character. You can see, when you let him run free, what he can do."

Newcastle coach Eddie Howe certainly noticed Irankunda.

"He was really impressive," he said.

"It's a big step but he showed he's got definite qualities today."

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