New Socceroo #619 Ben Folami readily admits it has been an up and down few years, but he is taking it all in his stride as he looks to win more caps for his national team.
The 22-year-old Melbourne Victory attacker made his Socceroos debut against Japan last month as he was thrust into the action after a late call-up.
Folami had previously represented Australia at under-19 and under-23 level, including as a part of the Olyroos team that secured qualification for Australia’s first Olympic Men's Football Tournament since 2008.
While the Sydney-born winger impressed during the Olympic qualifying campaign, he was not selected in the final squad for Tokyo 2020.
“Missing out on the Olympics was definitely a wake-up call for me and it was something that I needed to go through to come out on the other side as a better player,” Folami said.
“I wasn’t too shocked to be left out of it because my form on a personal level wasn't good enough so I understood the coaching staff's decisions.
I think it definitely lit a fire inside of me that said you've got to up your game If you really want to go and do all these amazing things.”
Since that moment, Folami has gone on to become one of the Victory’s most important players with three goals and three assists in 21 appearances in all competitions this season.
His blistering pace and dribbling ability have been a major asset for the club as they look to put their 12th place finish from last season well and truly behind them under new coach Tony Popovic.
Folami paid tribute to his club Melbourne Victory and the former Socceroo for helping him return to peak form.
“Obviously, my first season at Victory wasn't the best for me and for the club as a whole,” he explained.
“But it was an important step for me to realise what it takes to play in a league where all the points count, and it isn't under 23’s where it’s development football.
“This season, I just feel that the coaching staff at Melbourne Victory have helped me massively. Popa, Fabrizio, and Luciano have invested a lot of time into me and into improving parts of my game that they thought needed improvement.
I owe it to them for having the faith and the belief in me to see that I'm a player who needs that consistent game time to get my fitness up so yeah, I'm just in a really good place at the moment in my club football.”
While the Socceroos were not able to secure a victory in Folami’s Green and Gold debut, it was a moment he will never forget.
As a former Football NSW Institute and the Sutherland Sharks junior, making his senior international debut in his hometown meant just that little bit more.
“It meant everything. It was a moment I'd always dreamed about since I started playing football when I was four years old,” Folami said.
“I had my mum, dad, sister, auntie and a lot of friends there so it was a special moment for me and I was lucky enough to see them after the game as well.
To get any time on the pitch at all was something that I've always dreamed of, and I'm lucky enough that I got the opportunity.
“It's something that motivates me to do even more, hopefully, pick up more cups from now in the future.
“I will keep pushing myself to become a better player so I can become a regular part of this and I get to experience it more often. That's my plan and we'll see what happens.”