Irankunda cleared to play for Adelaide after FA review

Anna Harrington, Joanna Guelas and George Clarke |

Nestory Irankunda will play in Adelaide Utd’s next ALM clash, his last at home before going abroad.
Nestory Irankunda will play in Adelaide Utd’s next ALM clash, his last at home before going abroad.

Adelaide United sensation Nestory Irankunda has been cleared to face Macarthur FC and see out the Reds’ late A-League Men finals push after other clubs had privately pushed for him to be stood down.

Football Australia confirmed on Friday evening, following an independent review, that Irankunda had never been officially called up to the Olyroos, making him eligible to play for the Reds.

The teenage sensation turned down an 11th-hour approach to the U23 Asian Cup in Qatar, which doubles as Olympic qualifiers, as an injury replacement for Melbourne City’s Marco Tilio.

Coach Tony Vidmar had left Irankunda, 18, 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 Adelaide about a U-turn selection.

The Olyroos ultimately called up Brisbane Roar’s Keegan Jelacic instead.

Multiple clubs, who have lost players to the tournament with just three full rounds left in the ALM season, told AAP they were unimpressed with Irankunda’s ability to dictate his availability.

The clubs believed Irankunda should be stood down for the remainder of the Asian Cup, given Adelaide’s competition rivals would be hamstrung by international call-ups at a crucial stage of the season.

But Irankunda has been officially cleared to play, with Friday night’s clash the Bayern Munich-bound teen’s final home game.

“Football Australia is pleased to announce that Adelaide United FC player Nestory Irankunda has been cleared to participate in tonight’s A-League Men match between Adelaide United FC and Macarthur FC at Coopers Stadium,” FA said in a statement.

“Following a thorough independent review, it has been confirmed that Nestory Irankunda was not called up for the Australian U-23 men’s national team and therefore remains eligible to participate in tonight’s match and subsequent A-League Men matches.”

Western United play Adelaide on Tuesday night and coach John Aloisi had no qualms about his side going toe-to-toe with Irankunda.

“Of course he should be playing. I don’t understand what the conversation is that he shouldn’t be playing,” Socceroos great Aloisi said.

“He didn’t get selected so he should be available to play and if we have to play against him, we have to play against him.

“Maybe some sides are upset … that he didn’t get selected. That’s got to do with the coaching staff for Olyroos.

“If he’s not selected, it’s not because the Olyroos coaching staff wants to see Adelaide United do better than any other team. It’s because they didn’t think it was right for him at this present time.”

Melbourne City coach Aurelio Vidmar, Tony’s brother, did not comment on Irankunda specifically but voiced his support generally for ALM clubs being required to release players for international duty.