Valentino Yuel is an underdog.
The term can often be thrown around excessively in footballing circles, although there’s no better way to describe the Newcastle Jet’s 26-year-old forward.
In fact, the description is welcomed by Yuel himself. He loves the tag.
“Oh for sure,” Yuel said with refreshing honesty - after being questioned whether the label of ‘underdog’ has contributed to his sudden rise in results and recognition.
“I consider myself someone who likes to prove people wrong all the time. I’ve been doing that all my life, so it’s nothing new to me.”
Born in Kenya, Yuel and his family fled war in South Sudan at the age of 10. He arrived in Adelaide in 2005 and, with a hampered start to social life, used football as a way in which to connect with his new home country and make friends.
Yuel’s natural speed, talent and love for the game led to an eventual Melbourne move, in a bid to make football a career, rather than a pastime.
A strong season for Bentleigh Greens in the NPL was rewarded with a contract for Western United’s inaugural squad in 2019, although after just nine A-League appearances and zero goals, the club informed him his services were no longer required.
“It was pretty tough, I’m not going to lie,” Yuel revealed to A-League Live.
“I was a little surprised. I felt there was more to my game that wasn’t really recognised. I had doubt and my confidence (suffered) as well.
“I talked to some people after that happened and got back to basics and understood what I needed to do, which was find a way to get my confidence back - getting to a place where I was enjoying the game again.”
After a trip back home to Adelaide, where his family still resides, Yuel was invited to trial with the Jets.
“They saw my qualities and they believed in me as well. So that’s what really helped me play close to my best again.”
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