Five minutes with: Melbourne City defender Ruon Tongyik

From war-torn Sudan, as a little boy, to a football star in the making at 20, Ruon Tongyik provides a fascinating insight into how he has come this far and thanks his mum and dad for being the best parents he could imagine.

Ruon Tongyik

Ruon Tongyik, right, with Melbourne City supporters from Sudan Source: Getty Images

TWG: Have you got memories of war-torn Sudan?

Ruon Tongyik: I've got some memories. I was very young and travelling with my parents from Sudan to Ethiopia, and because of the war, that was going on back home, it was a very dangerous trip. We had relatives in Ethiopia and we lived there for a year or two before coming to Australia. At the time there were soldiers stopping people from going. A lot of people weren't making it through, so lucky for my family we did.

TWG: Your family arrived here in 2003, when you were six, and it has been reported that you didn't start playing club football until 2011. Is that right?

RT: That's correct, but I was playing a lot of football just with mates before that and I was playing school football as well. So I was still playing competition football.

TWG: Did you know then that you had something as a player?

RT: I had a rough idea that I did. People were telling me I had potential and to keep playing and see what happened, so I did.

TWG: Presumably the circumstances in Sudan meant you didn't play any football there as a young boy?

RT: Yeah, it wasn't ideal for anything like that. We would play around with the ball among family members, but that was about it.

TWG: After the family settled in Adelaide, did you try any other sports. Did anyone try to rope you in to AFL?

RT: Yeah, a few friends and school-mates asked me to play AFL and it wasn't too bad. I was in the midfield and I enjoyed it for a bit, but it wasn't really my thing.

TWG: Is the rest of your family still living in Adelaide?

RT: Yeah, everyone's still there, but it's a possibility they could move to Melbourne. They came here for a holiday and liked it. I'm contracted until the end of next season and I'm really enjoying it.

TWG: How big is the family?

RT: There are five children. My dad's name is Kuk and my mum's English name is Rebecca. I was the first-born and there was another boy and girl born back overseas and I've got two more sisters, who were born here. My brother turns 18 next month and my sisters are 14, 12 and eight.

TWG: What's it like being the big brother to four other kids?

RT: It's good. They look up to me and everything, so I've got to do the right thing and lead by example, I guess. They love watching me play on TV, they get very excited about that. My brother, Gatlat, is a footballer as well. He plays in the local leagues in Adelaide.

TWG: Earlier this season you were selected for an Australian Under-23s camp under the direction of former Adelaide coach, Josep Gombau. How was that experience?

RT: It was great, especially with Josep as coach. I've learnt so much from him and he's a great guy as well. He knew what I was about from when I was in the youth team at Adelaide United and that gave me a lot more confidence, going in.

TWG: People have remarked about how calm you look on the field as a 20-year-old rookie. Is it a natural calmness?

RT: Yeah, I get that a lot. I guess it's just a natural thing for me, I feel comfortable on the ball and moving it into the midfield. I'm not easily put off.

TWG: What about your obvious physical strength? Are you just naturally strong or have you done a lot of weights as well?

RT: This has happened during my time at Melbourne City. I've got a program and I've been following that and working out. I was kind of built, but I needed to develop that.

TWG: You've got that ability to compete for the ball and hold opponents off without much of a struggle. That must give you a lot of confidence.

RT: Yeah, definitely it does. It really helps me on the field.

TWG: What are your interests outside of football?

RT: I like chilling and relaxing with mates, and listening to music, definitely. R&B, a bit of classical music, sometimes a bit of jazz, and when I have free time I like to read as well. At the moment I'm reading The Power Of Positive Thinking.

TWG: Just looking for an edge, are you?

RT: (Laughs) Yeah, definitely.

TWG: What do you think of the Australian way of life?

RT: Oh, it's perfect. I really love it here. In my opinion there's no better place than Australia, it's a lovely country.

TWG: Have you ever been back to Sudan, or, if not, do you want to go back?

RT: Yeah, unfortunately I haven't been back yet, but I definitely want to. I've just got to make time in the off-season to go. I've got a lot of family there and I haven't seen them for a long time, but I've spoken to many of them.

TWG: What makes you laugh?

RT: Just mucking around with mates. A few jokes and a bit of banter always gets me going.

TWG: Mixing and playing with established stars like Tim Cahill, Bruno Fornaroli and Fernando Brandan at City - what has that been like for you?

RT: Oh, it's unbelievable. They're great people, really easy to talk to, and I can learn a lot from them as well. They're willing to share their secrets to help us young boys develop, which is great.

TWG: Do you think about the future a lot? What do you hope it brings?

RT: Definitely, all the time. Football-wise, I want to play at the top level, in Europe, and represent Australia, and generally I really want to be successful in life.

TWG: Your parents obviously went through a lot to try to make a good life for their children. How big an influence have they been on you?

RT: They've been a very big influence. They wanted to give their children a chance to grow up in a place where they could flourish and if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in with football now. I really thank them for everything they've done. I'm not just doing this for me, I'm doing it for my family because they've played a big part in my life. My parents have done so much to get all of us to where we are now and I'm really blessed to be a part of a family like this.

TWG: Finally, if you had three wishes - what would you use them on?

RT: I've love to see everyone be healthy and live a fulfilled life. In football it would be to play for Australia, and, personally, just through playing football, I'd like to be able to influence people to believe there are opportunities out there in life if you've got the ability and you want to work hard.

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5 min read
Published 30 March 2017 at 6:43pm
By Greg Prichard