A second chance in football and life

by Sebastian Hassett on Jul 16, 2011

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You could just about write a book on the life and times of Kerem Bulut. He's only 19 but has gone through what can only be described as a tumultuous few years.

That all culminated recently in a court case where the full extent of his alleged misdemeanours were brought into full public view. Originally, he was stripped of his passport in November, before having it re-instated in April this year. That meant he went six months without time as a professional footballer for his club, FK Mlada Boleslav.

Three months after returning to the Czech Republic, the Auburn-born youngster has been named in Australia's squad for the under-20 World Cup. It's a remarkable turnaround, and in all truth, it speaks volumes about the talent of the boy.

I've not had a lot to do with Bulut personally - he barely spent any time in the senior team at Sydney FC before making the decision to leave for Europe - but I know enough people around him who can speak about what he's really like.

To a man, all of them agree: Bulut is a genuinely nice guy. He speaks politely and enthusiastically, and possesses a modesty unusual for a talent that could take him all the way to the top of the world game.

Then the same mention is invariably made. It goes something like this: 'Somewhere along the line he fell into the wrong scene'.

On the occasion I did get to interview Bulut, he was a most helpful subject. He'd gone on scoring spree of seven goals in six matches to win the Golden Boot at the 2010 AFC Under-19 Championships, and while Australia had lost the final, he was on top of the world.

''Scoring the first goal of our first game in the tournament gave me a lot of confidence and then you just take it step by step from there," he told me after stepping off a 10-hour flight from Asia. "My goal was to play well and help get this team to the World Cup. I was top scorer, but at the moment I'm more excited about what we achieved as a team.''

His father came to pick him up at the airport, and a prouder parent you could not see. Yet that was two months after he was alleged to have been involved in gang-related activity; it seemed an impossible contrast.

Be that as it may, Bulut recently said: "Everyone deserves a second chance, I'm going to make everyone proud again."

And he is right. Not just because he is an extreme talent, but because he is young, and perhaps didn't understand the consequences of his actions. Everyone makes mistakes, even if some are worse than others.

Already, Bulut's club career is back on track, and football needs to be his focus from here on in. It is a healthy environment for young man to grow up in - working in a team, earning an honest wage, keeping fit and learning from elders.

The Australian football family should be embracing this lad as part of the future and as one of their own. Calling him into the under-20 squad was a surprise to most people, but a welcome one.

Hopefully it means he is committed to getting the best out of himself and in giving his utmost to the cause.

Fingers crossed he's in for the long haul. Football can be a tough path at times, but it is surely better than the alternative.