For Adelaide United wunderkind Louis D’Arrigo, there’s no place like home.
The 17-year-old returned to his native Adelaide in September of 2017 from the now-closed FFA Centre of Excellence and hit the ground well and truly running; playing in all eight of Head Coach Paul Pezos’ side’s Y-League matches and winning the league’s Player of the Year gong at the Dolan Warren Awards.
Backing up his Y-League campaign with Adelaide United’s youth team in South Australia’s NPL, D’Arrigo made 16 appearances for the Reds academy side as they secured for a maiden finals appearance by finishing in the fifth position on the table.
Despite only being in the Reds system for a year, former West Torrens Birkalla junior D’Arrigo says there is a real sense of comradery amongst the Adelaide youth team, something he attributes to the work of Pezos.
“I think we’re all close,” D’Arrigo said.
“Especially this year, we had our new coach (Pezos).
“He’s made us really, really close with each other. We’ve got a great family with the youth team. I give credit to him and all the coaching staff for making us this close together on and off the pitch.
“Before I got to Adelaide I heard that the coach wasn’t the right coach for that team. They weren’t doing that well – the youth team – but when Paul came along he brought in a lot of new philosophies to get the youth team better.
“He came in and he knew what he wanted to do and that was to win games. We did really well considering it was our first year with him in NYL and we did really well in the NPL, it was the first time we made finals as a youth team.”
D’Arrigo in July was elevated to the Reds senior team; signing a youth scholarship contract with Marco Kurz’s squad and joining the likes of Ryan Strain, Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, Kristin Konstandopoulos, Isaac Richards, and Pacifique Niyongabire as members of the Reds youth side that have made the leap to senior football in recent times.
“Louis has impressed us with his maturity and ability since joining the Club and we’re proud to see another young South Australian sign a youth scholarship contract with us,” Adelaide United General Manager of Football Ante Kovacevic declared at the time of the youngster’s signing.
“There is no question about Louis’ potential…he has a lot of development still to go through and we’re confident he can become a high-quality footballer.”
Despite being the reigning Y-League player of the year, news of his elevation came as a surprise to D’Arrigo
“When I won it (the Y-League Player of the Year award) I thought to myself ‘all I want to do is train first team’,” he explained
“And then I got told a week or two after that I’m training with the first team and then a week or so in I got given a contract.
“(I was thinking) Far out! It’s every kid like me’s dream to get told that you’re a part of a first team squad – especially from your home team – so for me, it’s unbelievable.
“It’s a huge jump from youth team to the first team. You’ve got to get used to it.
“But now I feel like I’m settling in alright with the boys and I’m training alright, I’m training well enough to be there. It’s a jump, but its good to be there.
“Marco’s [Adelaide United Head Coach Marco Kurz] really good, he’s really good at giving feedback to you. If there’s something you can improve on he’ll be there to tell you first and that’s what I like about him.”
Rewarded for his performances at clubland, D’Arrigo was recently a part of a select group of U18 Young Socceroos that travelled to Japan to take part in the 2018 SBS Cup.
That tournament, however, did not quite going to plan for Ante Milicic’s side.
A 1-0 defeat to Japan in their first game was followed by a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at the hands of eventual champions Paraguay as Club Libertad midfielder Giovanni Bogado put the Australians to the sword.
Compounding their problems, illness swept through the Young Socceroos camp during the tournament, forcing Milicic to scramble to plug holes in his line-up that saw a number of players playing drastically out of position.
Nonetheless, D’Arrigo and his teammates were able to finish their campaign on some sort of a high by recording a penalty shootout victory over a Shizuoka Prefecture Select side in their final match.
Despite the calamities that had befallen the group, D’Arrigo – who appeared in all three games for the Young Socceroos – said that nothing could dampen the excitement he felt when pulling on a green and gold shit.
“It was unbelievable,” he said.
“For me, every time I get chosen to represent Australia, it’s the best feeling anyone can ask for.
“I love putting on that jersey and playing for them, I just give it my all. I played all three games and I loved every minute of it.
“The boys were pumped after the game (the win over Shizuoka Prefecture). It was a bit unfortunate that we didn’t win a couple more games, but that’s football I guess.
“We loved it, especially the new boys that were there for their first caps; they really loved it.”