Football club makes history by giving 14-year-old goalkeeper his debut against A-League side


Fairytale moment football club makes history by giving 14-year-old goalkeeper his debut against A-League side Macarthur FC – as his mum admits she was a nervous wreck when he ran on

  • Oakleigh Cannons made history by debuting 14-year-old goalkeeper Ymer Abili
  • Abili came on as a late substitute against A-League side Macarthur FC
  • Oakleigh lost the game 5-2, but the young goalkeeper kept a clean sheet

Oakleigh Cannons’ fantasy run may be over – but their beaming 14-year-old goalkeeper, Ymer Abili, was still left in dreamland in Melbourne today as the youngest soccer player ever to grace the Australia Cup.

Less than 24 hours after another schoolboy Christopher Atherton became the youngest ever to appear in any senior match in the UK at 13, young Abili beamed his own way into Australian soccer annals with his delightful cameo appearance in the Cannons’ semi-final defeat by Macarthur.

With the Victorian semi-pro side’s romantic run about to be ended by A-League Men’s Macarthur, who were leading 5-2 in their semi-final in the dying minutes, Cannons’ coach Chris Taylor took the chance to give Abili, who usually plays for their Under-14s, his fairytale moment.

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Oakleigh Cannons made history by debuting 14-year-old goalkeeper Ymer Abili in their Australia Cup semi-final against A-League side Macarthur

Abili came on as a substitute late in the game with Macarthur leading 5-2. Abili replaced experienced keeper Lewis Italiano - who is more than twice his age at 31

Abili came on as a substitute late in the game with Macarthur leading 5-2. Abili replaced experienced keeper Lewis Italiano – who is more than twice his age at 31

Taking him off the subs’ bench at Oakleigh’s Jack Edwards Reserve home, the youngster could not keep the disbelieving smile off his face as he was told to take over the gloves from the Cannons’ experienced keeper Lewis Italiano, who’s over twice Abili’s age at 31.

After getting a roaring reception from the home fans as he came on to face the might of ex-Man United soccer superstar Dwight Yorke’s Bulls, the even better news was that young Ymer didn’t concede any more goals as Macarthur took their expected place in the final against Sydney United.

Explaining that the substitution had been pre-planned for the final moments should the Cannons be on their way out, Abili told Network 10: ‘Eighty-fifth minute, I think. He [Taylor] said “warm up” – I was buzzing, so happy!’

Abili got a roaring reception from the home fans and managed to keep a clean sheet for Oakleigh Cannons

Abili got a roaring reception from the home fans and managed to keep a clean sheet for Oakleigh Cannons

There was a nerve-racking moment in the final seconds when Abili looked as if he’d have to deal with a corner, but he just shrugged: ‘I was just excited to go on and make history, that’s it.’

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And asked if he perhaps should have been brought on earlier, he shrugged with a smile, ‘I dunno … Chris Taylor’s call, not mine!’

His mum, though, didn’t sound as cool. ‘I was a nervous wreck,’ she said. ‘I’ve been nervous all night. I’m so proud of Ymer, he trains really, really hard for the last couple of years.’

The Cannons hailed their young history maker with a celebratory tweet.

‘We are extremely proud! What an incredible night to see our 14 year old keeper Abili make his debut!! An historical moment for our club and for the Australia Cup!!’

Abili couldn't stop smiling and after the game said he was excited to make history for the club. The Cannons tweeted: 'We are extremely proud! What an incredible night to see our 14 year old keeper Abili make his debut!! An historical moment for our club and for the Australia Cup!!'

Abili couldn’t stop smiling and after the game said he was excited to make history for the club. The Cannons tweeted: ‘We are extremely proud! What an incredible night to see our 14 year old keeper Abili make his debut!! An historical moment for our club and for the Australia Cup!!’

But not even Abili could match the feat thousands of miles away as Atherton, aged 13 years and 329 days, broke a British soccer record that had lasted for 42 years as he came on as a second-half sub for Glenavon against Dollingstown in Northern Ireland’s League Cup.

Even more extraordinarily, his first touch was to set up his side’s final goal in their 6-0 win.

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Atherton is almost a year younger than the record holder as the youngest professional British player, Eamon Collins, who made his Blackpool debut at 14 years 323 days in 1980.

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton, whose son plays in the same junior team as Atherton, said: ‘He got his debut based on his ability and a reward for the way he’s been playing right through the age groups.

‘He’s only a third year at school. We brought him in to train with the first team last year and he never looked out of place.’

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