From Knox City, Endeavour United and Frankston Pines to the FIFA World Cup.
Jackson Irvine says to play for the Socceroos at this month’s tournament in Russia would be the “culmination of all the sacrifice and hard work” he has done since he was a little boy growing up in the south-east suburbs of Melbourne.
The Socceroos take on France in their opening game on Saturday night (Melbourne time), before finishing off their Group C campaign with games against Denmark and Peru.
So much did the Hull City attacking midfielder impress in last weekend’s friendly against Hungary that he is being touted as a potential starter against the star-studded French side in Kazan.
Irvine spent a few seasons at Knox City between the ages of 10-13, a couple of years at Endeavour United after that and then, later on, a crucial campaign at Frankston Pines that preceded a trial at Scottish giant Celtic, where his career really kick-started.
The passionate advocate for Team 11’s bid for A-League and W-League inclusion was also an ardent Socceroos fan growing up.
The 25-year-old is now having to pinch himself at the opportunity that lies ahead of him in the coming days and weeks.
“It’s kind of hard to put into words,” Irvine said.
“I was 12 years old in 2005 at the qualifier against Uruguay and I was fortunate enough to be in the stands at Kaiserslautern as well for the game against Japan when Timmy scored two goals and in Munich for the game against Brazil.
“I grew up a Socceroos fan, going to all of the games, being a part of those experiences.
“Now the idea that you could potentially be on the other side of the fence and actually playing, it’s hard to put into words what it means.
“It is the dream come true and a culmination of all the sacrifice and hard work you’ve had over the years. It’s going to be amazing.”
Addressing the world’s media this week, Irvine revealed his Dutch grandfather was one of the key reasons why he took up football.
But where in the past his grandpa may have felt conflicted as to who to support at international level, now the choice is exceptionally easy with Bert van Marwijk in charge of the Socceroos and former Dutch star Mark van Bommel his assistant.
Then of course there are the small matters of his grandson playing for Australia and the fact the Netherlands haven’t even qualified for this tournament.
“I have a very close connection to the Dutch side of my family through my grandfather,” Irvine said.
“He was pleased to see a Dutch coach come in and also someone like Mark, who was such a legend as a player as well.
“He’s always had that half debate of who to support – Holland or Australia – but fortunately that’s an easy enough decision for him this time.
“He was the one that really pushed me to get into football from a young age.”
Catch Irvine and his Socceroos teammates against France at Team 11’s community football event at Harmony Square in Dandenong on Saturday.