‘You have to do something!’ Meaning behind boyhood Victory fan Velupillay’s Rashford celebration

Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United go head-to-head in the Isuzu UTE A-League's 'Original Rivalry'.

Nishan Velupillay is taking his game to a new level with Melbourne Victory and he has been rewarded with a new contract. The Olyroo is shaping up as a player to watch in a breakout Isuzu UTE A-League season.

It’s a scene fans absolutely love: A player running over to celebrate a goal in front of a packed-out terrace. Nishan Velupillay was once that adoring Melbourne Victory supporter in the stands. Now, he is on the opposite side of the fence.

He was that player fans serenaded in the crowd on a sun-soaked Melbourne evening in round 2 of the Isuzu UTE A-League. He stood there, in front of the Northern Terrace, as he celebrated his coast-to-coast goal against Newcastle Jets.

“When you see that many fans in the northern terrace, you have to do something,” Velupillay told aleagues.com.au ahead of Saturday night’s mouth-watering top-the-table showdown against Adelaide United as part of an A-Leagues double-header at AAMI Park.


That something he refers to is his Marcus Rashford-inspired goal celebration.

The ‘temple point’ has been made famous by the Manchester United and England forward.

The fact Velupillay used it against the Jets provides a snapshot as to why he has enjoyed such a red-hot start to the season.

“He is a player that I watch a lot,” the 22-year-old forward said, having signed a contract extension during the week. “I particularly like the celebration because it’s basically saying it’s all in your head.

“To deliver good performances, it’s more the mental side than anything.”

The “mental side” is a theme throughout the interview.

This is a player who grew up supporting Victory. One of his first memories was watching Victory dismantle Adelaide 6-0 in the 2007 Grand Final. After a successful four-week trial, he then went on to join the academy and graduated through to the first team in 2021.

He also scored THAT match-winning goal away to Adelaide in December 2021.

But two rounds into 2023-24, Velupillay looks like he well and truly belongs in a Victory side stacked with attacking talent – from Bruno Fornaroli to Ben Folami and Chris Ikonomidis.

Last season, he started nine of his 26 league appearances. He already has two starts to his name in a red-hot start this term.

“I’ve just been working on the mental side of the game. Information that I can take in wherever. Spoke to a few people,” he reflected.

“I feel the mental side is so important. When you play at a club like Victory, you’re going to have to deal with pressure. I feel the mental side I’ve made stronger and there’s even more potential to make stronger.

“It helps when my goal is go out there and play with joy, and have fun with a smile on my face. That kind of relieves everything.

“I feel like I’m doing that now and that’s translating into how I’m delivering more consistent performances across 90 minutes.”

Velupillay’s form, though, should not come as a complete surprise given the off-season that… wasn’t.

He was part of the Olyroos side that were not only invited to the prestigious Maurice Revello Tournament for the first time, but finished third in June.

In September, he also played a key role as the Olyroos qualified for the 2024 AFC Under-23 Asian Cup.

“I’m growing in confidence the more I play with them (Olyroos) and the more I play here,” Velupillay said. “It’s good to get that recognition for your hard work but also, it just gives me more motivation to exceed my own expectations.”

Victory coach Tony Popovic hugs Nishan Velupillay

Velupillay is feeling the love. As a result, Tony Popovic and Victory are reaping the rewards.

“Ever since I’ve come in as a youngster, he’s always been able to help my game in every single way,” he said of the Victory head coach. “I take on everything he says.

“My third year with the boss, our relationship has grown together. He has more faith and trust in me. Just as an individual, you kind of mature into a footballer, on and off the pitch.

“I feel ready to play. I feel ready to deliver on the big stage.”