Overflowing with class, Hassan Alhilfi metronomically bounces the ball on his boot a few centimeters from New photographer Rodney Braithwaite.
Holding equipment valued at north of $ 10,000 a pencil, Braithwaite offers words of encouragement to get the perfect shot. “Don’t worry about hitting me.”
A cool smile, a calm cue from Alhilfi. “It will not happen.”
He was right.
It’s that kind of confidence that pushes the 15-year-old under the noses of Melbourne’s top youngsters.
That, and the fact that he can’t stop scoring against them.
As one of the newest talents to come out of the Goulburn Valley Suns’ production line, Alhilfi has already scored five goals in six U16 games and shows no problems starting up to claim the position of attacker.
Scouts from the Youth Academy met with Alhilfi to discuss how he intends to torment the defenses in the near future.
Enlisted in the ranks of the Suns in 2018, Alhilfi is never far from the scoresheet. His silky feet and sense of purpose landed him in state nets, where he streaked the performance over the performance together for Victoria Country.
Youth Academy: You started with six goals in five games, how have you found the season so far?
Hassan Alhilfi: It went well mate. We started a bit slow in the first game, but after that we bounced back with two wins. It’s just a good team this year and I think we have a good chance of being the best team.
YA: What positions have you played so far?
HA: For Vic Country I was usually playing as a winger, and for a game against Western Australia I went ahead, which was a good game. We bounced back from 2-0 to win 3-2, and I ended up scoring the winner.
YA: Going from winger to attacker, what aspects of your game are you working on?
HA: All man. I’m learning to move towards the ball – pushing defenders away so a player can run behind. It’s a great tactic we’re working on right now.
YA: What do you think are some of your strengths?
HA: I’m fast, I can come between the players, I can direct the ball. Finishing; I’m very good at it too.
YA: When did you join the Suns?
HA: I joined in 2018, it was my first year. I learned so much you know. I love it here, the managers, everyone – it’s such a good club.
YA: Was there any advice from coaches that marked you?
HA: Shane Dunne, who is the Under-17 coach, he watches my games and tells me things to help me. Billy Marshall also helps me a lot.
A bullet in his feet and fire in his stomach – this is how Alhilfi first remembers his love affair with the early days of football. The teenager is well on his way to reaching great heights – and in turn securing the ultimate bragging rights – on his way to the top of the nation.
YA: What sparked your love for football at the start?
HA: Ah, everything. Since I was five, I had a small goal in the yard. My dad was a footballer here, he played for Shepparton South in the 90s. I’m trying to pick up on what he did here.
YA: What does your father tell you about his playing days?
HA: He says he was probably one of the best players to play for South, the best player in Shepparton, he said. I don’t know man. It’s good to have conversations with him, he helps me a lot.
YA: You represented Vic Country, what was that experience like?
HA: Coming down to Melbourne the facilities are amazing, the coaching is amazing – just amazing. Our Vic Country team was together for two years, and we ended up doing pretty well in our groups.
YA: Have you always lived in Shepparton?
HA: I have grown up in Shepparton my whole life. My family is from Iraq and originally lived in Sydney before coming here.
YA: What are you doing outside of football?
HA: I love watching basketball, I get a lot of motivation from players like LeBron James. I also listen to (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, not many people like him, but he is good. You might be surprised, but I also love to cook. I make a medium omelet.
YA: What was your favorite football moment?
HA: The game of Western Australia. I marked the winner. It started from the back, played out in the thirds and I was there to touch him. We were the only team to beat them and they ended up winning the competition.
YA: What was your least favorite football moment?
HA: My first season; Red card. To this day, I can’t believe it. I don’t think I can repeat it, I just said bad things to the referee.
YA: Who is your football idol?
HA: Everyone says Messi, but I love Sergio Busquets. He’s so composed, I learn a lot from him and his way of moving. But my forward idol is Luis Suarez – he’s amazing.
YA: Who is your favorite team?
HA: Manchester City. Their playstyle is cool, you know?
YA: What’s the next step for you in terms of football?
HA: Maybe I want to go to Melbourne Victory or Melbourne City – I hope to give one of them a try this season. I can’t wait to play them; I think it will be a strong game.
Liam’s last word
I’ve heard that the McEwen Reserve groundskeeper is fed up with tightening the nets after Alhilfi continues to break them with a litany of powerful strikes. He asked the 15-year-old to stop, to which Alhilfi replied “it won’t happen”.