Gianni Stensness' unique journey into Green and Gold

In July, Gianni Stensness lined up against the Graham Arnold's Olyroos in a final pre-tournament friendly ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

Just a few months later, he is revelling in his first senior international call-up to Arnold's Socceroos, where he could well earn a dream first international cap in his hometown, Sydney. 

After enjoying a few breakout years in the A-League Men's for the Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners, the 22-year-old sealed a move to Viking FK in Norway earlier this year - with a clear goal in sight. 

“It (Socceroos selection) has been on the top of my mind since I have been over here in Norway, it has been something that I have been thinking about and working towards,” Stensness told 

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A defensive-minded midfielder also capable of slotting into the back four, Stensness recently scored his first goal for Viking, who currently sit third in the Eliteserien. 

Just a few days later, things got even more exciting as he received word that a maiden Socceroos call-up was on the cards. 

“I knew the day that we’d be notified of the squad," recalled Stensness.

"I was lying in bed and ‘Arnie’ (Graham Arnold) gave me a call - there was just so much nervous energy, but then when he told me I was in the squad there was a lot of relief and excitement that one, hopefully I get my debut for the Socceroos and two, having that in Sydney where I have grown up.

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"It’s just so many things coming together. A lot of my family and friends are going to be there at the game. It is an amazing thought, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. but to be in the squad is really amazing and it is going to be a new challenge.

I am just really, really looking forward to it and confident about the whole journey.”

After first representing the Young Socceroos back in 2017, where he played alongside now-Socceroos teammate Denis Genreau, Stensness has also represented New Zealand at youth international level. 

Eligible through the heritage of his father, he gained some tournament experience at the FIFA U20 World Cup, where he scored a memorable strike from long-range, and more recently the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, starting all four matches for the OlyWhites.   

But when it came to choosing his allegiance at senior international level, a connection with Socceroos Head Coach Graham Arnold on Sydney's Northern Beaches went a long way towards what turned out to be a straightforward decision. 

“We (Arnold and Stensness) have had a few chats," he said. "He actually lives in the suburb I grew up in in Sydney which is Narrabeen." 

"We had a coffee together and I think the main role that ‘Arnie’ played was to show that I would be valued in the set up and that he sees a good future for me in the Socceroos set up.

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"But the decision to switch to the Socceroos was mainly personal, from my heart, having grown up in Australia all my life and around Sydney.

"I do have a lot of love for New Zealand and my Dad is from New Zealand, so it was lovely to represent them as well, but when I think about which country it would make me proudest to represent, that was definitely Australia for me. Which country do I owe the most? Just going through school and every team I have played for through my youth, that’s Australia.”

From a personal perspective, the timing of Stensness' selection could not have been any more perfect - with the chance of a dream debut in front of his family and friends. 

“I have snuck it (news of his selection) out to a couple of family and close friends and I think that is when it really hits," he reflects.

"You realise how big a deal it is when you get to share it with them and see how blown away they are.

You realise how far you have come to make the Socceroos – it is the pinnacle, and every Australian kid’s dream that is playing football. It makes you giggly and just like a kid again and amazed at what you have achieved.”

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