Mental fortitude drives D’Arrigo, the milestone man

Louis D’Arrigo knows as well as most the perseverance required to break through at the top level, let alone feature in 100 games at such a young age.

Louis D’Arrigo knows as well as most the perseverance required to break through at the top level, let alone feature in 100 games at such a young age.

At just 21, the versatile midfielder has had to adapt and hone his game through periods when playing time has been hard to come by, but he has long been the DNA of United’s youth blueprint.

So when D’Arrigo brought up the milestone as United’s youngest player to reach 100 games and etched his name into the record books in his sixth consecutive start for the Club, it was a moment of vindication for hours of hard work and persistence.

The feat eclipsed the previous holder, Robert Cornthwaite by more than two-and-a-half years.

“This milestone means a lot to me, it’s a proud moment for me and my family who have supported me from the very beginning,” D’Arrigo said.

“When I signed for the Club, I wanted to play as many games as possible, and it’s still perhaps taken me longer than I would have liked, but it means something really special to me.

“To be the youngest to play 100 games for this proud Club is a great achievement, and now I’m just worrying about the next 100 and hopefully I’ll be the next youngest to reach that record too.”

His recent rise as a key cog in United’s midfield machine is evident in his starting appearances and increase in confidence this season after he commenced just two games in 2021/22 from the outset.

Head Coach, Carl Veart, noted earlier this week the young star “hasn’t had it easy” but has deserved the accolades through the “100 per cent effort” he gives each time he pulls on the United red.

The D’Arrigos have football coursing through their veins, and they still hold the same seats at Coopers Stadium when a 10-year-old Louis started attending every home match.

The love for the game stems from his ‘Nannu Zepi’ (grandfather Joseph ‘Zepi’ Camilleri), his Maltese grandfather, who was part of Malta United that won promotion to the top of the local SA ranks before folding in 1976.

It extended in his parents as well, who sacrificed a lot in taking their son to the various trainings, academies, and State programs through the journey.

While football has always come quite naturally to the maturing midfielder, he credits not only his family and current coach, Veart, but Paul Pezos as someone who has helped him develop the mental edge to not only make it but sustain it as a professional footballer.

“I think one of my strongest attributes is my mental side of the game and you have to believe in yourself, especially when the times get tough or you might find yourself out of the team or with limited minutes,” D’Arrigo admitted.

“Paul taught me a lot about this.

“Above all, you have to believe in yourself and tell yourself that good things will happen in football because it’s a long ride, and you’re going to have those good days and bad days.”

Nowadays, D’Arrigo has grown into the United system and flourished alongside the likes of Isaías, who has gone from a player he once admired as a junior, to a mutual confidant on the field.

“When I first came to the Club and before I arrived, I looked up to Isa and I was in awe playing with and watching him play because I was always in the same position as him, and I also tried to look at his game and see what I can do better.

“But being a teammate and having played many games together now obviously I can still learn from him, and he teaches me a lot, but these days he not only gives me advice on the field, but it also goes from me to him as well.

“We have a great understanding and he’s taught me so much about controlling and winning the midfield battle.”

A mix of personnel in United’s revamped formations has also allowed D’Arrigo to diversify his midfield role at times.

He has even started adding goals to his repertoire, with a defiant effort outside of the box to ensure victory for the Reds against last season’s Premiers, Melbourne City, in what was his second for the season.

For now, D’Arrigo has his sights set on lifting the Championship for his boyhood team, and later, a push for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

He ought to look no further than team-mate and Socceroo, Joe Gauci, for inspiration, given the two played together through the SA NTC pathway as well as featuring as Australian U23 teammates.

Gauci has seen a palpable boost in the youngster following a strong campaign in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022™.

Most notably, D’Arrigo curled a sublime strike from range against Kuwait, in a moment that saw him overcome with emotion after an end to 2021/22 that saw him have limited contribution in the Finals series.

It was a turning point that has driven the youngster to greater heights with United.

His Club goalkeeper played in that 2-0 victory.

“I’ve known Louis for a long time and he’s always been a smart footballer who has worked extremely hard with a great passion for the game,” Gauci said.

“This year he’s enjoyed much more consistency in his game and minutes, and he’s been scoring a few goals also which has really given him the confidence to take his game to the next level.

“Last year I think he lost that a little bit of that towards the end, but going away with the Under 23s has helped him regain that love for the game and certainty again.

“He should be extremely proud to reach 100 games for Adelaide United so young, and by some margin compared to the others as well, and I can’t wait to see what he can do in the Finals and beyond.”

If there’s one thing greater than scoring at any level for your country, it’s lifting a Championship with your hometown and boyhood Club, and D’Arrigo’s enhanced mental edge can help United claim a second league title.

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