JORDI Swibel can remember being a fresh-faced eight-year-old, standing on his tippy toes in ‘The Cove’ supporters area at the Sydney Football Stadium, shouting “we are Sydney” at the top of his lungs.
“I’ve been a Sydney FC supporter from day one – since I was a child I went along to all their home games,” the talented striker, who turns 20 in April, told The AJN last week, upon being named in the powerhouse A-League club’s 29-man squad for its 2019 AFC Asian Champions League campaign.
“So it was such an exciting moment when a few of our youth (Y-league) boys got called into a meeting with club head coach Steve Corica, who let us train with the A-League players, and then announced we are part of the squad,” he said. “Now I’m not only following them as a fan, but as a player!”
The extended squad – which includes most of the club’s A-League line-up plus eight U20s players – trained together several times last week ahead of their opening Group H match at Sydney’s Jubilee Stadium on March 6 against Korean opponents Ulsan Hyundai, which finished a 0-0 draw.
In between their A-League fixtures, the Sky Blues will play five more Champions League matches until May 21 – at home and in Asia – against Ulsan, Chinese champions Shanghai, and Japanese premiers Kawasaki Frontale, for a prized place in the tournament’s last 16.
Swibel, a former Hakoah FC U18s player and Australian youth team member at the 2017 Maccabiah Games, earned his place in the squad on the back of consistently good form for Sydney FC in the NPL NSW first grade and U20s competitions last year, and in the 2018-19 Y-League.
He scored 13 goals in 15 games for the U20s, who were grand finalists, and he was runner-up for the Golden Boot award, and third for Player of the Year.
He also played 10 first grade games and five Y-League games, scoring a goal on debut, and has demonstrated the ability to play in other positions, including the wing and in the midfield.
“I worked very hard and did lots of little extras after training, but I also was in a fantastic U20s side that had a lot of good players, so that helped create scoring opportunities,” Swibel said.
“We were also really lucky to have Shane Smeltz [a former New Zealand striker and A-League star] assist with coaching us, and that was so valuable, especially when going through video footage to address weaknesses in our own games, and exploit weaknesses in our opponents.”
Swibel is aiming to learn as much as he can when training with the club’s top squad under Corica’s guidance in the coming months, while also striving to secure a regular starting spot in first grade in the 2019 NPL1 NSW season, which for Sydney FC begins on March 10 at Hensley Stadium, versus Hakoah Sydney City East FC.
“Whether we [younger players] are going to be needed to play in [Champions League] games will probably depend on how the A-League players pull up at the time,” Swibel said.
“But just training with these top players, like Milos Ninkovic and Adam Le Fondre, is fantastic for my development, not only being able to observe what these guys do on the field, but also off it, and soaking that all up.
“There is a different speed and physicality, and they expect a lot more from you.
“Under Corica, there is a winning mentality, and it’s great for us younger guys to get a taste of that culture.”