A-League clubs air grievances after Nestory Irankunda’s shock snubbing of Olyroos duty


The decision of Adelaide United’s Nestory Irankunda to opt against late Olyroos selection has caused consternation among rival A-League Men clubs.

A-League Men clubs are privately lobbying Football Australia to stand Irankunda down for the duration of the Olyroos’ U23 Asian Cup campaign after the Adelaide teenager opted against accepting an 11th-hour approach for the Olympic qualifiers. 

Irankunda was considered by U23 coach Tony Vidmar as an injury replacement for Melbourne City’s Marco Tilio over the weekend, a few days after the coach left the 18-year-old out of his original squad. 

Vidmar’s squad selection has been undermined by European clubs refusing to release players and Irankunda was one of the few attacking options available to him when he sounded out the teenager’s camp about a U-turn selection. 

Vidmar spoke to Irankunda’s inner circle and Adelaide’s hierarchy before being told the Bayern Munich-bound winger would opt against travelling to the U23 Asian Cup in Qatar. 

After those enquiries were knocked back, the Olyroos called up Brisbane Roar’s Keegan Jelacic in place of Irankunda. 

Nestory Irankunda of Adelaide United celebrates a goal. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

But multiple clubs, who have lost players to the tournament with just three full rounds left in the A-League Men season, told AAP they were unimpressed with Irankunda’s ability to dictate his availability.

Clubs have cited regulations in discussions with the FA, claiming players who decline national team call-ups ought to be prevented from featuring at a domestic level for the duration of international camps.

The feeling among rival clubs is that by allowing Irankunda to play, Adelaide is advantaged while their other competition rivals are hamstrung by international call-ups at a crucial stage of the season. 

FA is believed to have received correspondence from a number of ALM clubs arguing that Irankunda should be made unavailable for the entirety of the Olyroos’ time in camp, starting with Adelaide’s game against Macarthur on Friday.

Chasing an unlikely spot in the finals, the game is shaping as Irankunda’s likely last home game at Hindmarsh Stadium.

The alternative but far less likely solution being proposed is that Olyroos players should return to the ALM for the run-in towards finals.

Nestory Irankunda’s agent responds to his client rejecting the Olyroos’ offer@TheRealBozza | #ALeagues pic.twitter.com/sICUQAKqBi

— SEN 1170 (@1170sen) April 11, 2024

But the legal sticking point centres around whether the Adelaide teen received an official call-up, which his club and FA are insistent did not take place. 

In Adelaide’s view that should negate any complaint from rival clubs seeking to prevent Irankunda from featuring in his final four games. 

Irankunda’s agent Adrian Griffin backed up that claim on the radio on Thursday, telling SEN1170 the teenager was only “indirectly contacted on Sunday night, but he had already made the decision he wanted to finish the season at Adelaide United”.

The Reds’ quest for a finals berth starts against the Bulls on Friday with coach Carl Veart urging Irankunda to keep building on an impressive run of form that has propelled Adelaide to three straight wins.

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“(Irankunda) is a very dangerous player,” Veart said.

“We’ve seen over the last few weeks, he’s added a lot more to his game than just shooting and using his power.

“A lot of people think that’s all he has.

“But Nestory is a very intelligent footballer, he has very good technique and we’re starting to see that side of him now.”

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