From the National Premier Leagues to the African Nations Qualifiers

Emile Damey says that he’s still in dreamland after being plucked from Victoria NPL 2 East to represent his country of birth in an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Emanuel Adebayor’s Togo.

Damey was 11 when he and his family came to Australia as refugees after fleeing from civil war ravaged Liberia. 

Now 22, the 179cm powerfully built striker - who plays in the third tier of Australian football for Nunawading FC - will join the Liberian national team squad for a camp on May 30 before they play Togo on June 5.

A win at home against the Hawks will see the country all but go through to the finals for the first time in 14 years and the Townsville youth product says that the prospect of being involved in such a huge game still hasn’t kicked in yet.

 “It’s a dream come true,” Damey said.

“It’s still setting in. I haven’t really had to time to really, really take it in because everything has happened so quickly. 

“To just even be part of the 25-man squad and with the possibility of playing against a guy like Emanuel Adebayor, that is phenomenal.”

Damey also knows that an impressive showing in front of the Lone Stars National Team Coach James Salinsa Debbah could lay the seeds for a spot in Liberia’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations squad. 

“He’s been very positive with me,” Damey said.

“He’s seen what I can do and he’s been very straight forward. 

“His policy is he gives young players chances provided they prove that they are worthy of the opportunity. I possibly could get an opportunity (to play) but that’s based on going there and doing what I do best.”

Growing up in Townsville meant that at 16 he got a scholarship to William Ross Sate High School.

However, he found the environment challenging - teachers laughed at his football dream and kids bullied him. 

Then craving professional football, the young striker spent time in Malaysia’s second division.

Soon after his club and his current management got the teenager a trial with Spanish side Mallorca but it was curtailed by ligament damage. 

Nevertheless, he impressed enough to secure a meeting with Japan international Keisuke Honda and his management for a trial in Austria

However, a lack of fitness due to the injury meant that it was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Nunawading FC have featured heavily and the NPL2 club have given Damey’s football career the discipline and schooling he so desperately craved.

“I’m coming from a place where I haven’t had a footballing education from a young age,” he said.

“I only learned football from playing. My physical attributes allowed me to do certain things like score goals, I’m quick, strong, I hold up play. I can go into most environments and provide those qualities.

“But Nunawading says okay you have those qualities lets add on to them. Can you bring other players into play? Can you stay between the lines?”

And regarding the A-League, Damey says that he can make the step up.

“Right now, I believe I’m ready,” he said.

“Two or three years ago possibly not. But now I’ve been at Nunawading it’s given me the extra edge.

“There is still a lot to improve on but for the average players who are in the A-League, I would not look apart.”

  • Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.
  • Photography by Frank Khamees