Brisbane Roar whiz-kid Cyrus Dehmie was one of a record 34 African-Australian players to take the field this season in the A-League.
He is part of one of the fastest growing demographics in Australian football, with African-Australian players now representing 11% of the league’s total player base.
It has been a whirlwind few months for the 19-year-old striker, who was born in the Ivory Coast and arrived in Australia as a refugee.
He made his A-League debut for Brisbane Roar and signed his first professional contract, committing his immediate future to the club that nurtured his development.
“As a kid I always dreamed of becoming a pro footballer, but when I came into the Brisbane Roar Academy, I realised this dream could actually become a reality,” said Dehmie.
The Dehmie family – mum, dad, Cyrus and his seven siblings – arrived in Australia in 2010 and settled in Brisbane.
Football was Cyrus’s social adhesive.
“The biggest challenge was adapting to a new culture, new school, new language. I wasn’t really great at English at the time,” he said.
“I was at Moorooka State Primary School, which was very multicultural. There were kids from all over the world.
“At lunchtime I would always go on the school oval to play football, and that’s how I started making friends. They saw my skills and I saw their skills and we were like, oh yeah, we can be friends now.”
Times were tough for the Dehmie family, who like most refugees faced a period of transition into a foreign environment.
But when the family struggled to pay registration fees, local football clubs provided Cyrus an opportunity.
“Financially, it was pretty difficult, but I was one of the lucky ones because my junior clubs Rochedale Rovers and Tarragindi Tigers helped me out to play,” he explained.
And it was football that took Dehmie into new environments. In high school, he won a scholarship to the prestigious Anglican Church Grammar School, also known as “Churchie”.
“I never once dreamed of going to a private school, my parents never dreamed of taking me to a school like that. But I was gifted – God’s blessing,” said Dehmie.
“I wouldn’t say I fitted straight in. It took me a couple of years to adapt to the new culture, because I was coming from Moorooka State School and it was completely different at Churchie.
“So when I went there, of course I felt out of place. But the kids there were great. They included me in everything they did and made me feel like one of them.”
It was at Churchie that Dehmie came into the orbit of current Brisbane Roar head coach Warren Moon. Under Moon’s guidance, in 2019 Churchie’s First XI won their very first GPS Premiership, with Dehmie scoring the winning goal.
This year, Dehmie became one of several Academy players elevated by Moon into the A-League squad.
“Warren Moon has been massive for me,” said Dehmie. “When I came to Brisbane Roar, he told me not to be nervous – just go out there and show them what you can do.”
After making six A-League appearances this season, Dehmie will now turn his attention to the NPL, where he is a Golden Boot contender after scoring 12 goals in just nine matches.
A win over Eastern Suburbs on Sunday could see the Roar move into second place on the ladder.
“Brisbane Roar Academy gave me a pathway that I could follow,” said Dehmie. “Hopefully next year I get some more games in the A-League and score some goals.”