How a move ‘out of nowhere’ made Irankunda the player he is today: ‘I was pretty upset when they told me’

Adelaide United’s Nestory Irankunda charts his incredible journey in the KEEPUP special feature ‘Nestory: The Story’.

When you think of Nestory Irankunda, your mind immediately goes to his incredible highlight reel.

Brilliant goals, amazing skill, electric pace and dazzling celebrations. Irankunda has shown in his short career that he has the full package when it comes to his attacking arsenal.

However, what if in an alternate universe Irankunda followed the trajectory of his junior career where he isn’t known for his attacking prowess but defensive smarts?

If the Adelaide United youngster had it his way a few years ago, this could have very well come to fruition.

“I used to watch Barcelona a lot since it’s my favourite club and I used to want to be a centre-back, defender,” he told KEEPUP in the feature – Nestory: The Story.

“I used to play as a centre-back. I used to like (Carles) Puyol and Gerard Pique. I guess I was pretty good at it and then obviously I didn’t think I was going to transfer into becoming a winger, an attacker.

“It just happened out of nowhere, to be honest. I was pretty upset when I got told they wanted to play me as a striker because it was a dream of mine to be a defender.

“But obviously things are going well now.”

Irankunda sat down with KEEPUP to chat about his story so far. The 17-year-old winger has had an astronomical rise to stardom over the last couple of seasons, becoming one of the country’s most exciting young talents in the blink of an eye.

His performances have caught the eye of European giants, reportedly including Bayern Munich, who are said to be interested in signing him. In March, he also earned his first Socceroos call-up for the dual friendlies against Ecuador.

In his own words, he wouldn’t be here without the sacrifice of his family, who fled war-torn Tanzania and lived in a refugee camp, before relocating to Australia.

“I was really young when we first came to Australia from Tanzania. There was a war back in Africa, between a few tribes, I’m pretty sure,” he said.

“My parents fled and moved into a refugee camp in Tanzania and yeah, it was pretty hard on them, to be honest. From the little stories I’ve heard it was hard on them, but obviously we’re grateful to be in Australia now and to be living a good life now.

“My heroes? my dad, my older sisters, my mum, my two older brothers, they sacrifice a lot for me.

“My brothers, they stopped playing soccer so I could play. I guess the fees were just too high and my two older brothers both sacrificed their dream for my dream. My sisters, they’ve been taking care of me since I was a baby and till this day they still take care of me like I’m still a baby.

“My dad, he sacrifices the most, I guess for me before I got on my license, he was taking me everywhere. There were times where he didn’t go to church so he could take me to training, to soccer.

“My mum as well, they both worked to make all this happen so we’ve come a long way from refugee camp to Australia.

“Life was tough on us and obviously I’m making them proud, obviously doing what I wanted to do since I was a kid. My dad’s dream was to be a professional footballer. He didn’t get the chance to become professional at the highest level so obviously I’m going to try and make his dreams come true.”

Since Irankunda rose to prominence last year, his life has changed astronomically and although he’s dealing with all the hype associated with being one of the country’s brightest young talents – he is just an everyday teenager.

And when the football boots comes off, the books come out as Irankunda tries balance his high school studies with his duties as a professional footballer.

“It’s pretty hard to do school at the same time because there’s distractions,” he said.

“I’m in a learning space at school and I’m trying to do my work and a bunch of students are like: ‘miss, he’s a professional footballer, blah, blah, blah’ this and that.

“Then obviously the teachers are like, no way and they type me up and then they see me on the internet. It’s kind of hard to fit in soccer and school at the same time, especially now that I’m a professional footballer.

“I’m really far behind in my work, but hopefully I can catch up soon.”

As for his favourite subject?

“I like English a lot. That’s probably my favourite subject at school,” he said.

“I used to read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, obviously I got into the movie especially Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is probably my favourite one because of the rat guy (Peter Pettigrew), some rat that turns into a human, Ron Weasley’s rat.

“It looks old in there and I like that, it’s weird.”

Whatever happens with overseas interest, Irankunda will remain in the A-Leagues next term due to FIFA rules prohibiting transfers abroad for players under the age of 18, but the winger already has his eyes set on where he wants to take his career once he departs Adelaide.

“My dream is to go to Scotland, go to England, win the Champions League and win a World Cup with Australia, hopefully, in 2026 if I do get the call up,” he said.

“And to sign for Adelaide United, hopefully again, when I do retire.”