Soccer stardom beckons for Amlani Tatu and a generation of African-Australian teenagers

soccer stardom beckons for amlani tatu and a generation of african-australian teenagers

Adelaide United's Amlani Tatu is one of the soccer players to watch in Australia. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

Amlani Tatu isn't flipping the soccer world on its head just yet, but the 16-year-old is among a generation of players with African heritage for whom the sky seems to be the limit.

Tatu, whose family is from Burundi, is already turning heads in South Australia's National Premier League (NPL).

So much so that the Adelaide United winger has already been likened to Bayern Munich-bound Nestory Irankunda.

"He's achieved a lot and I guess can't wait to see how he does in Europe," Tatu said of Irankunda.

"I'm not too focused on being compared to Nestor [but] obviously Nestor is a great role model."

There has been a significant rise in players with African heritage making it to the top level in Australia, helping to lift the calibre of the sport.

"There's certainly some high-profile players that have come out of the African community," Football SA chief executive officer Michael Carter said.

Irankunda and Kusini Yengi have showcased that talent, with both recently scoring for the Socceroos in World Cup qualifying.

Both came through the ranks at Adelaide United, which has become a development ground for African-Australian players, with Tatu touted as another potential star.

The teenage winger grew up with Irankunda in Adelaide and shares the star's now trademark flipping celebrations.

He's already scored eight goals in 15 games in the NPL, turning heads with his speed and long range goal-scoring ability.

Tatu also hopes to one day play for the Socceroos, having already represented Australia with the under-16 Joeys.

"It was a dream come true, it's every kid's dream to play for Australia," he said.

"When I got the message saying I was selected, I was buzzing."

Zimbabwe-born Panashe Madanha is another Reds player stepping up and is already a regular in the A-League side.

The 19-year-old said working with coach Carl Veart has helped lift his game, with the club known for giving younger players more opportunities.

"If you work hard, if you apply yourself the opportunities will be granted for young players here," Madanha said.

"That's something they remind us of all the time, it's just about staying grounded and staying focused."

They both hope to follow in the footsteps of Yaya Dukuly, Awer Mabil and both Mohamed and Al Hassan Toure, who have all had stints overseas from the club.

Mabil, a South Sudanese refugee from Kenya, has also represented the Socceroos.

South Australia's success producing African-Australian players has, in part, been put down to its annual African Nations Cup.

The soccer tournament brings together the state's best players with African heritage, in a celebration of their culture.

Football SA's chief executive Michael Carter wants the state to keep nurturing that talent by providing pathways to higher levels.

"It's a huge cohort of players who love the game and we'll continue to support them," Mr Carter said.

The tournament has grown exponentially, with more teams competing each year.

It now boasts both a men's and women's competition, with plans to expand it even further.

"It's a huge event, we're looking to go further and actually create programs for the younger age groups, rather than just the seniors, so we're working with the government on that," Mr Carter said.

As for Tatu, as comparisons to Irankunda continue, the attention will only increase.

But the teenager said he was staying focused on his own game.

"Right now I'm not too focused on Europe, I'm just focused on breaking into the first team here at Adelaide United," he said.

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