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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio's young rollercoaster journey leads to personal growth and reflection

After hitting a wall in Melbourne, South Australia's only active indigenous male professional footballer, Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio, took a plunge to play football on the other side of the world. Lattanzio shared experiences from his young career and opened up about his pride in his indigenous identity in an exclusive interview with Front Page Football.

Lawrie-Lattanzio celebrates a goal for York United FC. (Instagram: @cplsoccer)

Canada is different from where Australian football fans would expect one of their footballers to play. But that was the destination for South Australia’s Lawrie-Lattanzio in the previous six months of his career.

“The lifestyle is pretty similar, to be fair; thankfully, we speak the same language; otherwise, I’d be in trouble," Lawrie-Lattanzio joked to FPF.

At only 20, Lawrie-Lattanzio may be in the infancy of his career. But he already has a wealth of experience from his short but eventful football journey.

Playing for Adelaide United is something all up-and-coming South Australian footballers dream of doing. To be involved in the Reds’ youth program and win silverware for its Reserves is something the young winger remembers fondly. His performances in this period led to a call-up to the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup in Brazil.

“Those were some of my best times enjoying football. I was young, we were playing a lot, and we were all friends in the team representing our hometown club as juniors. It was an honour, really, winning in the Reserves, doing well in the NPL, and getting an opportunity to go to the World Cup was the outcome of that success, I guess,” Lawrie-Lattanzio said.

Lawrie-Lattanzio with the Joeys during the U17 World Cup in 2019. (Twitter: @luislawrielatt)

Admiring Lawrie-Lattanzio’s rise to prominence from afar, fellow A-Leagues side Melbourne Victory acquired his services. After the youngster impressed in the National Youth League, winning the Y-League Victory Medal and the TAC Y-League Golden Boot, he was signed on as part of the senior squad.

On the surface, it was another promising player earning a professional contract. But this move meant Lawrie-Lattanzio followed in the footsteps of fellow South Australian indigenous players Fred Agius and Travis Dodd in playing professional football.

Despite this chapter being an exciting one for Lawrie-Lattanzio personally, Victory was undergoing a period of turmoil on the pitch. Uncertainty in the coaching ranks led to poor performances and a wooden spoon-winning season.

Tony Popovic’s move to Melbourne the following season saw the side regain its stature as a premier club in Australia, winning the Australia Cup in the process. But it meant Lawrie-Lattanzio and others in the periphery of the squad had less involvement due to the new coaches' incoming signings.

Despite facing a tough time on and off the pitch in Melbourne, Lawrie-Lattanzio left Victory with no regrets and described playing for the club as an “honour."

“I know I did play during one of the roughest patches the club has ever had, and it doesn’t go unnoticed, but it is what it is. It was terrible losing and coming last, it was not what the club had planned and not what I expected, but that’s how the tables turned and how things worked out," Lawrie-Lattanzio said.

“I don’t look back at anything with regret. I am happy with how it went for me personally because I believe everything happens for a reason; it was a good lesson to look back on.”

Leaving Melbourne Victory with a severe lack of game time, Lawrie-Lattanzio was desperate for regular football again, returning to South Australia and signing for NPL SA club Campbelltown City. But after only two appearances, an opportunity arose to sign for Canadian Premier League side York United FC.

The winger spent a few months in Canada and occasionally played an unfamiliar role at wingback. But the most important thing about his spell in Toronto was that he started enjoying his football again after a long stretch of frustration back home.

“I enjoyed my football which is the main thing, because before playing the two games for Campbelltown, before moving to Toronto, my last game was four or five months before that. The biggest thing for me was getting game time, getting back to what I do and what I know I can do,” Lawrie-Lattanzio said.

For an Australian to play professional football in two different countries at only 20 years old is quite an achievement, especially for an indigenous footballer, currently a rarity in South Australia.

Becoming the only active male indigenous professional footballer was a source of pride for Lawrie-Lattanzio, mainly when reflecting on his mother’s role in the community.

“It’s an honour. It’s a big thing for me to represent who I am and where my blood is from. My mum is a newly appointed Commissioner for Aboriginal Children & Young People. She is heavily involved with her people, culture, and belonging, so for her son to carry that representation is something special," he said.

Lawrie-Lattanzio enjoyed football growing up, but it had to compete with AFL and athletics for his attention. For years, AFL eventually won out in the battle for up-and-coming athletes because of its investment in grassroots. The winger even admitted that it could have been the case for him if it wasn't for his father's influence.

Football is only starting to dabble in its indigenous development in South Australia, and Lawrie-Lattanzio has noticed the effort. He shared that as his career progresses, he would be honoured to be involved in developing young indigenous footballers.

“You can have academies and specialised groups because there is definitely talent, but it needs to be found and refined, and that’s with any sport. There are academies now in South Australia, for example, run by Travis Dodd, which is a start for something that’s never been around. It is very good for young aboriginal athletes," he said.

“If I could help in supporting an industry that hasn’t been worked with as much and create something and help children, what more could you ask for? It is something that I would, of course, want to do.”

Representation matters. Wherever Lawrie-Lattanzio’s career takes him next, and as football in South Australia increases its commitment to its indigenous communities, he can inspire the next generation of indigenous children. He is a player with a similar background, playing the sport professionally, and has represented his country.

Click here to read more about Adelaide United legend Travis Dodd's involvement in indigenous football in South Australia.


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