There’s no telling who was watching when Hellenic AC walked out to face the Borroloola Cyclones in their recent Westfield FFA Cup clash at Darwin Football Stadium.
There wasn’t a packed grandstand, or lots of scouts surveying talent but what this fixture did not lack was a potential star of the future.
And maybe, just maybe, for fans on the night, they’ll one day be able to boast to their friends: “I was there when Geoffry Lino scored five goals on his FFA Cup debut.”
Lino’s athleticism and finishing was on display as he helped lift his side to a convincing 7-0 win against their all-indigenous opposition – a wonderful story in itself.
After plundering 38 goals last season for Port Darwin perhaps it wasn't a surprise Lino ripped through the Cyclones.
For the 20-year-old, who is a former Sudanese refugee, he’s hoping it will be the continuation of a journey that will one day take him to the Hyundai A-League.
“We treated it just like any other game,” Lino told www.theffacup.com.au.
“You’ve got to respect your opponent obviously but we went in treating it just like any other game as we didn’t know much about their team.
“I was pretty happy to score so many goals but I just want to play well and help my team win a lot of games this season and we’ll see what happens.”
Lino arrived in Australia from southern Sudan in 2006, having hardly ever played with a real football.
He became an Australian resident two years later and was the first teenager from Darwin to earn a contract with Adelaide United, where he played with their National Youth League team in the 2013/14 season.
His story, while remarkable, is certainly not unique with Australia seeing a real emergence of football talent from players of African heritage in recent times.
Bernie Ibini’s stunning form for Sydney FC, which saw his elevated to the Socceroos last year and Awer Mabil’s exploits for Adelaide which earned a trial with Dutch giants Ajax in January are the two more well-known examples; however one game between the two clubs this season saw seven players of African descent take the field.
This should come as no surprise with the African community one of the fastest growing in this country.
Lino is sure players such as himself have the talent and desire to make it at the elite level, what they’re hoping for is a chance.
“I would like to see more African players get an opportunity, I believe there’s a lot of playing talent out there willing to work hard they just need a chance,” Lino said.
“I’d love to see more African players in the A-League and I’d love to be one of them.”
Lino is currently weighing up his options, with an offer to play for Adelaide City in the South Australia NPL a possibility.
Until then the next challenge for the 20-year-old and his Hellenic FC side is Casuarina FC, who moved through to the next round of Northern Territory Cup qualification with a 5-1 win over the Mindil Aces.
They’ll meet in the last eight with the Northern Territory’s spot in the FFA Cup’s Round of 32 the next goal – although Lino won’t mind if he bags one or five again along the way.