How Valentino Yuel rose from the NPL to international football
Newcastle Jets attacker Valentino Yuel arrived in Australia aged ten, not knowing any English and began his journey through the NPL.
Eventually, he found his way into the A-League Men and now represents South Sudan.
In an exclusive interview with Front Page Football, Yuel reflected on the determination, sacrifice, and heartbreak he has experienced as a professional footballer in Australia.
Yuel celebrates scoring for the Jets last season. (Newcastle Jets)
Yuel made his debut for NPL SA side Adelaide Comets at the age of 16.
In search of regular first-team football, he moved onto Cumberland United.
It was there where he broke out at the local level, netting 13 goals in 40 games.
Yuel also featured for Campbelltown City.
After impressing season after season in South Australia, he moved to NPL Victoria side Bentleigh Greens.
His impressive tally of 8 goals in 12 games had him on the radar of the new A-League outfit Western United, who were highly impressed by his physicality and pace.
But it wasn’t all green pastures at Western, where he claimed his first professional contract.
He did not net a single goal across the 2019/20 A-League campaign and was released at seasons end.
Yuel’s professional career did not end there, though, with a successful two and a half month trial seeing him sign with the Newcastle Jets ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
He lit up the scene in his first few games, netting in three consecutive matches against Macarthur, Brisbane and Melbourne City.
Yuel in action for former club Western United against Melbourne City. (Getty Images)
His impressive form across parts of the campaign saw him called up by the South Sudanese national team for the first time.
“The experience with the national team was a pleasant one. To be able to go back to South Sudan and represent my home country is every kid's dream," Yuel said.
"It was excellent. I was able to see players from across the world from different leagues. Now I have come back with a surge of motivation [to] represent the team again.
Yuel netted four goals in 24 games for Newcastle last season. (Newcastle Jets)
“I spent two weeks in the capital, Juba, training. It was excellent and very rewarding; it will help me move forward mentally and physically in football.
"It was unfortunate within the team; a few players got COVID, but nevertheless, it was exciting and rewarding.”
Unfortunately for Yuel, when flying to Juba, most of the team had contracted COVID-19, so only a training camp could be organised.
The winger also shed light on what training and life have been like under Newcastle manager Arthur Papas.
“Under Papas, it’s been very demanding, but that’s what you want as a footballer aspiring to do well and move forward," he added.
"When the manager is pushing, that’s good. I’ve enjoyed pre-season this year; the fans will enjoy the football we want to play this year. I am looking forward to it.
Yuel in pre-season training ahead of the 2021/22 A-League Men season. (Newcastle Jets)
“I have a lot of personal goals I want to improve on, and the main objective is to be a lot better than last season and be more effective in areas that can help the team.
"I’ve been working hard. I have put myself into a good place with the extended pre-season, which can help me achieve those goals.”
Yuel will hope to feature for the Jets when they take on his former side Western United in the FFA Cup this weekend.