Sitting in his Shellharbour lounge room, Joel King was always fascinated by the Olympics as a child.
It became his dream to one day compete at a Games. That dream has now become a reality, after King was on Tuesday named in the Olyroos squad for Tokyo 2021.
The football tournament features under 23s players with three overage players eligible for selection. King is the sole Sydney FC representative, with Australia's 18-man squad including exciting young talent such as Denis Genreau and Daniel Arzani.
"It's a great surprise, I can't say I was expecting it. But to be selected, it's very exciting and I can't wait. Both my family and myself are proud, the Olympic Games are a huge thing," King told the Mercury.
"I think watching the sprinters, swimmers and all of that was a huge part of growing up. And I remember doing school assignments on the Olympic Games. I actually went to the 2000 Olympics in my Mum's tummy. I remember being told I was there, hopefully I can soak it up a bit more this time.
"I haven't had too much time to think about it, it's a bit overwhelming. But I think as a few days go by, I'll start to settle down and start to focus on it."
The Olyroos booked their spot at the Games in January 2020, defeating Uzbekistan 1-0 in the third versus fourth playoff at the AFC Under 23s Championships in Thailand. Wollongong's Dylan Ryan was part of that winning squad, but has not been picked to compete at Tokyo.
The Aussies have been handed a tough draw at the Olympics, with Graham Arnold's men placed in a group with two-time gold medallists Argentina, Spain and Egpyt.
"I think every group would be hard, but our games are pretty difficult. I know some of the teams have quality players who could be overage players," King said.
"But I hope they do bring the big name players because I think that will make it even more worthwhile. It will be quality opposition, but I'm excited about it. I get to test myself against the best young talent in the world."
The selection continues a roller-coaster week for King, which started with being named the A-League's Young Player of the Year.
The left back lined up in 28 games for the Sky Blues, culminating with Sunday's disappointing 3-1 grand final loss to Melbourne City. Sydney FC battled for most of the game with 10 men after Luke Brattan was sent off in the 35th minute, with the result denying the side a chance to win an historic third straight championship.
"It was a huge surprise (to be named young player of the year). Obviously looking at this Olympic team, you can see all of the young talent in the A-League this year. To be named that was quite an honour really," King said.
"And I'm proud of the boys, but I think City were the better team. They started off better and than we were lucky enough to get a goal back and it was probably wasn't ideal to concede a couple minutes after. As soon as we went down a man, it was always going to be hard. I think we always had belief in ourselves.
"But City are a great team. I think it actually be hard to play with a man up, there's all pressure on you. But they handled it well, they kept the ball the whole time and made us run. At the end of the day, I think they deserved it, so all credit to them."
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