Yengi details that Graham Arnold call and ‘whirlwind’ journey to Socceroos

Portsmouth forward and newly-minted Subway Socceroo Kusini Yengi had just woken up when he looked at his phone and saw a message from an unknown number.

The proceeding call in the car on his way to training provided the realisation of his childhood dream.

Socceroos Tickets banner v Bangladesh or Maldives

He said he was buzzing to hear the news from Graham Arnold that he had been selected for the upcoming AFC 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

“I woke up in the morning and had a text message saying, ‘Hi, it’s Graham Arnold, can I give you a call?’ I was brushing my teeth, so I quickly got ready and then jumped in the car and said, ‘Yeah, I’m available’,” Yengi started. 

“He called me back pretty quickly, to be honest, and he said that he wanted me to be a part of this camp and thought I had a bright future with the Socceroos. So would I be willing to take this opportunity on? I said ‘for sure’.”

The pacey winger got off to a flying start to this season's EFL League One after moving from Western Sydney Wanderers, scoring in back-to-back matches off the bench.

However, an ankle injury threatened to derail his bright introduction to English football, keeping him out for a couple of months.

Despite picking up that injury, Yengi said he always believed it was possible to get that Australia call-up, channelling his focus into getting back on the pitch.

He has only featured four times since returning to the Pompey team, but it was enough to catch Arnold's eye.

The attacker now targets his first Socceroos’ minutes on Thursday, reflecting on his journey to the Green and Gold.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Yengi said.  

“Things happen very quickly. You can go from not playing to starting and scoring goals in a matter of days.

“I have goals that I set for myself, and one of them was to be part of the Socceroos.

“It’d be an honour [to play against Bangladesh]. Something that every little kid dreams of growing up.”

He will face competition to get on the pitch in Melbourne against some of the players he has looked up to in his career.

The former Western Sydney Wanderers man played with Brandon Borello last season, while another former Wanderer Mitchell Duke is also in the squad.

He noted the impact of Jamie Maclaren in the A-Leagues, stating that he has learnt from the ruthless goalscorer.

“We’ve got some great strikers in the squad, players that I idolise. I’ve been watching Maclaren bang in goals in the A-League for fun for some time now, and he’s someone that I look at and try to take things from his game,” he said. 

Yengi will also share the dressing room with former teammates Joe Gauci and Craig Goodwin, having played with the pair at Adelaide United. 

Kusini Yengi

He also emphasised being the latest player of African descent to represent the Australian national team.

“It’s something that I look at very seriously and I know that growing up when I was a kid there wasn’t too many players of African descent coming through in the Socceroos but lately there’s been more and more,” he said. 

“Players like Awer Mabil and Thomas Deng have played really well for the Socceroos and have been part of the squad numerous times. 

"They’re boys that I know and boys that I grew up watching. Once I saw them come through, it was motivating seeing them play, and when you see someone come from where you come from make it, it makes you think, ‘Why not?’ ‘Why can’t I do that?’”

Yengi will hope to get on the pitch in Melbourne on Thursday night when Australia host Bangladesh in their AFC 2026 World Cup Qualifiers opener. 


Subway Socceroos v Bangladesh 
Thursday, 16 November 2023 
AAMI Park, Melbourne 
Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT 
Tickets: via Ticketek
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+

Palestine v Subway Socceroos
Tuesday, 21 November
Jaber Al-Ahmed International Stadium, Kuwait
Kick-off: 5.00pm (local) / 1am AEDT (Wednesday, 22 November)
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+