MetroStar Austin Ayoubi and the family affair that will decide an Australia Cup Round of 32 spot
The South Australian Federation Cup Semi-Final stage kicks off on Wednesday night when the MetroStars take on West Torrens Birkalla at ServiceFM Stadium. With a spot in the Australia Cup Round of 32 on the line, MetroStars midfielder Austin Ayoubi spoke to Front Page Football about a match that sees him placed in a unique position taking on his former club and family.
Austin Ayoubi in action for his new club, MetroStars, in the NPL SA last weekend. (Ken Carter)
Austin Ayoubi has had a superb first season for the league-leading MetroStars. But a year ago, he found himself in a completely different situation. Signing for the newly-promoted West Torrens Birkalla in 2022, Ayoubi and his side could not avoid relegation back to State League One after a single season of NPL football.
With multiple NPL clubs interested in his services, Ayoubi had a career-defining decision to make. After several conversations with the MetroStars head coach, Football Director, and President, the midfielder admits his choice became easy.
"I had a few chats with Danny Graystone (coach), Nik Kuzman (Football Director), and Rob Rende (President), and we weighed up a few things in regard to my ambition and the club’s ambition, how I can help the club, and how the club can help me," Ayoubi told FPF.
After the first three months of the season, the midfielder finds himself in career-best form, and his side sits five points clear on top of the table and is preparing for the Federation Cup Semi-Final. He admits that it takes more than a talented team to achieve success. Ayoubi credits the club's form to its environment and the willingness of every squad member to do what it takes to win games.
"MetroStars is a very welcoming club with lots of love from the community and a winning mentality, which is very important. This (the environment) helps me drive and become better mentally on the pitch," he said.
"I have the same ambition as the team, I want to do my best, and I want to help the team perform at its best. I want to win every game, whether that is helping set up goals, scoring them myself, or helping out defensively."
When the draw for the Semi-Finals of the Federation Cup was conducted, and MetroStars drew West Torrens Birkalla, it didn't just mean Ayoubi would be facing his ex-team but also his father, Amin Ayoubi, who is the Chairman of his former club. The midfielder and his father saw the funny side of the draw. But with a spot on the national stage in the Australia Cup on the line, friendships and family ties will be taking a backseat for at least 90 minutes while hostilities commence.
West Torrens Birkalla Chairman Amin Ayoubi wishes his players well before their State League One Grand Final in 2021. (Adam Butler/80kms)
"I was with my father (during the draw), and he is the President of Birkalla, so we had a bit of a chuckle," Austin Ayoubi said, discussing the Federation Cup draw.
"At the end of the day, that is the draw; there is nothing anyone can do about that. Both teams are going to go into this to win; it is going to be a great night and a great game.
"I approach this game the same way I approach any other. It is a game we need to win, and it is a game we are very hungry to win, no different from any other game."
Ayoubi's attacking play has been a feature in a MetroStars side that has only lost twice in 2023, with the midfielder scoring seven goals since joining, including a hat-trick in the Federation Cup against Cumberland United, whilst also being the architect for many of James Temelkovski's goals. Ayoubi credits the unstoppable partnership he has forged with the forward to the trust and ambition the two share.
"With JT (Temelkovski), it is a big trust thing," Ayoubi asserted.
"I am also very close with him off the park, and we have that bond, that connection. For example, we have the same type of humour but also ambition, which makes us both hungry to become better players and people.
"That is sort of why we are connecting so well on the pitch as well. But trust is obviously huge. He (Temelkovski) is obviously a very good player, so when I see him running in or coming towards me, I know I can play him, and he can make something happen. He can help the team, drag players out, which is happening now and is working very well at the moment."
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West Torrens Birkalla may be in a lower division. But they have shown they can upstage an NPL club in 2023, knocking out West Adelaide and proven Federation Cup specialists Eastern United on their way to the Semi-Finals. Birkalla's firepower with players such as Antony Ture, Nicholas Harpas, and Austyn Scambiatterra will be crucial should the underdogs pull off an upset.
The MetroStars have scored four goals against each of their three Federation Cup opponents. But in their last encounter in the competition, they faced State League One side Adelaide Cobras, who made Danny Graystone's side sweat, as the favourites only sealed victory in the 96th minute. If the MetroStars do not respect their opposition, or the NPL league leaders rest on their laurels, expect Birkalla to strike.
Ayoubi is certainly not taking this occasion for granted, not just because of his connection to Birkalla. Having never played in the Round of 32 of the Australia Cup before, the midfielder is determined to help the MetroStars return to that stage while showcasing his and the team's capabilities. He believes Metro can compete with the best in Australian football.
"The national stage is very important to the club because we feel we are at the level to compete. We do not view ourselves as underdogs to anyone, we go into every game thinking that we are the better team, and we feel like we are because we work very hard to be," Ayoubi said.
"I am looking forward to showing the club on the national stage but also myself. I want to show what I can do, how I can help the team, and see how far we can go as a team."
With the National Second Division set to be introduced in 2024 and vying clubs expected to begin receiving confirmation on whether they will participate in the coming months, this Australia Cup campaign is the most important yet for ambitious players like Ayoubi.
The midfielder confirmed to Front Page Football that he would be interested in stepping up to that level. The only thing that stands between Ayoubi and a national audience now is a date with his former side, with the only definitive winner being Austin's father, Amin, who will either see his son take a massive step in his football journey or will celebrate his ambitious club entering the national spotlight for the first time since the inception of the Australia Cup.
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