13-year-old Ymer's dream night for Cannons

·3-min read

Oakleigh Cannons' fantasy run may be over - but their beaming 13-year-old goalkeeper, Ymer Abili, was still left in dreamland in Melbourne as the youngest soccer player ever to grace the Australia Cup.

Less than 24 hours after another schoolboy Christopher Atherton became the youngest ever to appear in any senior match in the UK at 13, young Abili beamed his own way into Australian soccer annals with a cameo appearance in the Cannons' semi-final defeat by Macarthur.

With the Victorian semi-pro side's romantic run about to be ended by A-League Men's Macarthur, who were leading 5-2 in their semi-final in the dying minutes, Cannons' coach Chris Taylor took the chance to give Abili, who usually plays for their Under-14s, his fairytale moment.

Taking him off the subs' bench at Oakleigh's Jack Edwards Reserve home, the youngster could not keep the disbelieving smile off his face as he was told to take over the gloves from the Cannons' experienced keeper Lewis Italiano, who's over twice Abili's age at 31.

After getting a roaring reception from the home fans as he came on to face the might of ex-Man United superstar Dwight Yorke's Bulls, the even better news was that young Ymer didn't concede any more goals as Macarthur took their expected place in the final against Sydney United.

Explaining that the substitution had been pre-planned for the final moments should the Cannons be on their way out, Abili told Network 10: "85th minute, I think. He (Taylor) said, 'warm up' - I was buzzing, so happy!"

There was a nerve-racking moment in the final seconds when Abili looked as if he'd have to deal with a corner, but he just shrugged: "I was just excited to go on and make history, that's it."

And asked if he perhaps should have been brought on earlier, he shrugged with a smile, "I dunno ... Chris Taylor's call, not mine!"

His mum, though, didn't sound as cool. "I was a nervous wreck," she said. "I've been nervous all night. I'm so proud of Ymer, he trains really, really hard for the last couple of years."

The Cannons initially said in a celebratory tweet that Abili was 14, but a Football Australia spokesperson confirmed he was born on January 14, 2009, making him 13 years and 243 days old on Wednesday.

That's even younger than Atherton, who was 13 years and 329 days old when he broke a British soccer record that had lasted for 42 years when he came on as a second-half sub for Glenavon against Dollingstown in Northern Ireland's League Cup.

Even more extraordinarily, his first touch was to set up his side's final goal in their 6-0 win.

Atherton is almost a year younger than the record holder as the youngest professional British player, Eamon Collins, who made his Blackpool debut at 14 years 323 days in 1980.

With PA