From Kinshasa to Sydney – via Pretoria – Charles Lokolingoy is chasing a footballing dream in Australia.
Hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lokolingoy is just 19, having swapped his books for a pair of boots to pursue professional football in Sydney.
"In Congo I didn't think I was going to play football, over there I was into school, I wanted to do well in school," he said.
Despite speaking French and Lingala, when he left the DRC, he spoke next to no English.
"We came all the way – me and my brother to Australia with no English at all," Lokolingoy said.
But there was an international language he already spoke fluently. Football.
"It was quite challenging as well to talk at school especially, compared to other kids you feel like you are less.
"Later on you start gaining confidence especially from football, so when I play football that's where I get my confidence and from that confidence I just take it anywhere in the world," he added.
Eight years after arriving, he gladly stops to answers questions from starry-eyed young children who speak neither French nor Lingala, only English.
They ask him if he's a footballer, if he's famous and of course, if he'll take a selfie with them.
"It's a bit unreal, like wow. This is what it's like to be a footballer. It's quite exciting you see kids asking you how do I do that? How do I become like you?
"Taking selfies or signatures it's quite nice, it actually motivates me to get even bigger," he said.
But before taking selfies with kids and playing with Sydney FC, Lokolingoy was a young teenager studying at Canterbury Boys High School.
"It was a good school, that's where I started learning about football about different levels in Australia," he recalled.
After moving from local club North Bankstown, Lokolingoy shot through the ranks of the NSW state leagues, scoring for fun.
By 2015 while studying for his Higher School Certificate at Canterbury, Lokolingoy was selected to represent the Australian under-23s.
All of which led him to Sydney FC's youth team, where he scored 27 goals in 25 games, and finally joining the senior team this year.
When he received the call from Sydney offering a contract his family was surprised.
"They were a bit shocked ... When I got the contract they were really happy.
"I've got family members everywhere, France, Paris. Anytime I go on holiday they tell me to bring them a jersey. They're supportive," he said.
Since joining he's managed to come on as a substitute in an FFA Cup match, but his eye is on the A-League
"Just trying to get game time and if I get an opportunity to just take it and that can lead to greater things," he said.
Lokolingoy has the backing of Sydney FC head coach Graham Arnold, too.
"He is a fantastic prospect. It's common knowledge that we have a very strong striking department at Sydney FC and that includes Charlie in a very big way.
"I expect to see him get some game time in the Hyundai A-League before the end of the season and I think he has a very exciting future ahead at Sydney FC," Arnold said.
The story From DR Congo to Sydney FC: Charles Lokolingoy chases A-League dream first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.