Wherever 25-year old Argentine striker Nahuel Bonada goes, the spotlight always seems to follow.
Many eyebrows were raised when Bonada, who became synonymous with making a mockery of NPL Victoria defences throughout 2021 for the Dandenong Thunder, was named on Hume City’s bench for their recent FFA Cup Round of 32 tie against the Port Melbourne Sharks.
“I wasn’t going to play in the cup,” revealed Bonada when speaking to Kick360.
“I went there for training because they were allowed to train during the lockdown and I really wanted to keep myself fit and keep training. I know the coach and I talked to him and he said yeah, no problem, come to train.
“When the opportunity of the game came, he asked if I wanted to play the game and I said why not? I love to play this game so I said yes. It wasn’t in my head to play or have minutes, because I’m not part of the team, obviously, but I came on and I scored.”
Bonada’s aforementioned love for the game of football is hard to ignore. Born in the Argentine city of Cordoba, 700 kilometres northwest of capital Buenos Aires, the sport was ubiquitous and it was just a matter of time before he was to be engulfed by it.
“I first fell in love with football since six years old, growing up in Argentina compared to here, it’s so different compared to here. In Argentina, you grow up with football, or soccer, and it’s easy to fall in love with soccer because, you know, when when you watch TV, you have soccer, when you go to the supermarket, there are people talking about soccer.
“It’s so different to here, same thing with [Australian rules football]. I fell in love when I was super young, and I’m still in love, it’s been a great relationship!
“Compared to here, even semi-professional teams [in Argentina] are training 5-6 times a week, that’s the main thing. Even when you’re young, you train every day. When you become older, firstly, it’s so serious, everyone is taking it so serious.
“Tactically, that’s much better, too much expectation about the other team, most of the time the football over there looks ugly because most team defend what the other team is doing. In terms of skills, most players are so skilful and in terms of competitiveness, it’s really high standard. You have at least in Argentina up to the fourth division, everything is high standard, professional, and that’s the difference.”
Moving to Australia to sign for NPLSA outfit West Adelaide in 2019, a bad run of form influenced a move to league rivals MetroStars. After scoring twice in eight appearances following the switch, he flourished in 2020. Netting 11 times in 15 appearances, Bonada established himself as a leading marksman in the league, an idea that was most pertinent when facing Adelaide United’s NPL side.
“West Adelaide, to be honest, I didn’t have many good times there. MetroStars, I had a lot of good times, I remember one game after an injury, I was on the bench, I came on and we were losing 1-0 and I came on and first touch was a goal, a header. Everyone was so happy for me, that made me remember that as a feeling, it was really good.”
It was at this point that A-League Men clubs started to sit up and take notice. After his impressive exploits in amateur football, the Central Coast Mariners presented Bonada with the chance to be involved in the professional environment once more. Training with the Gosford-based outfit for over a month, he even scored the club in a 2-2 draw against the Western Sydney Wanderers in a pre-season friendly late last season.
“To be honest, I had been in the professional environment in Argentina, and it was totally different. I really liked the professional environment, they were really professional. What surprised me is maybe the facilities of the club, I thought that being a club from the A-League Men the facilities were going to be better, but they way that they worked was really professional.
“I really enjoyed it, I was there for a month and a half, it was so enjoyable, I enjoyed the training and being in that environment where you have everything, the environment of professional football is unbelievable.”
Despite this, he was never offered a spot in the squad for the forthcoming season, so the former Atletico Rafaela striker went back to the drawing board.
Leaving South Australia for pastures new in Melbourne, Bonada signed for the Dandenong Thunder. A relatively unknown quantity to most Victorian football fans, he wasted no time acclimatising to NPL Victoria.
On his debut for the George Andrews Reserve outfit, he converted a stoppage time spot kick to draw the Dandenong Derby level against arch-rivals Dandenong City.
“To be honest, I was so confident I was going to score when I took the penalty. I celebrate the goal in that way because before the game, we were told so many things, the pressure of the game, we need to win that game, we were losing that game and it was the last minute of the game as well, too much expectation outside the pitch, us as players we had a bit of pressure to be honest for the fans, the coach, the club as well.
“They want to win, and of course we want to win too, but when I scored the goal, was happiness. I feel freedom, I score and I feel a little less pressure than before, and also I’m so passionate, last minute goal in the derby, that’s why I celebrated like that.”
From there, Bonada became an irrepressible force; in every match in which he featured, he looked a devastating goal threat. During his time with the club, he made the miraculous look simple, exemplified by a masterful chip against Hume City to beat now-Newcastle Jets shot stopper Michael Weier, and a late bicycle kick to restore parity against Green Gully.
“I scored one against Hume that I chipped the keeper to the second post from outside the 18-yard box and I chipped it to the second post to the keeper. Why that goal, well the keeper was very good, now he’s at Newcastle, and also the goal was beautiful. For me, it was a really, really amazing goal, I couldn’t believe it when I scored to be honest!
“The second goal was against Green Gully, I did like a bicycle over the head of the keeper, it was crazy with the situation of the game as we were losing 2-0 and I scored two and with that one we drew that game, so it was good.”
Despite conceding the fact that he will not remain with the Thunder, he was complimentary of all involved with the club, candidly admitting that the supporters allowed him to reach his potential throughout the season just gone.
“I’m receiving so many messages all the time and I’m really grateful to the Red and Black Army because they were always so respectful to me, they really pushed me to be better as well. I say always that I have time to talk to them, just to say thank you for their support.”
After the NPL Victoria was subsequently cancelled in early September, Bonada did not want to let his momentum be halted.
After receiving the opportunity to feature in the FFA Cup for Hume City, he grabbed it with both hands, scoring Hume’s third goal to ensure progression to the Round of 16.
However, a case of mistaken identity saw Bonada giving his marching orders, which at the time of writing has him ruled out for the clash between the NPL Victoria giants and A-League Men’s powerhouse and reigning champions Melbourne City.
“It was 30 minutes of craziness. It was so crazy because the first yellow card, people who watched the game, everyone was telling me the first yellow card wasn’t a yellow card and should been a yellow for the Port Melbourne player.
“For the second yellow, when I scored, I ran to celebrate to the bench to celebrate with the team, the bench, everybody there. There was trouble behind the scenes, [Umut Bodzugan] pushed the keeper, or kicked the keeper or something like that, and the assistant referee thought that was me.
“When I came after the celebration, I went to the halfway line to restart the game again, the referee was calling me over saying come, come. I said ‘me?’ He said to me you can’t do that inside a soccer pitch, in my head I was thinking I did something wrong when I was celebrating but I was really sure that I didn’t do anything.
“It was a mistake that they made, after the game they apologised. Now that I got the red card, hopefully the club can appeal and they can take my red card off and I can play against Melbourne City.
“I’m praying to get the red card off, I know that it’s going to be a really tough game, I’m going to really enjoy that, and also I’m going to demonstrate that I’m in the level to play against those teams. I’m very confident.”
When asked about what his future holds after Hume’s cup run eventually ends, the Argentine stated that while he has loved calling Melbourne home over the past year, his priority is to move elsewhere for 2022.
“Honestly, I would like to say or be sure, if I have a club or not yet, but I don’t have anything. I’m waiting for an overseas opportunity right now. Thats why I didn’t sign with anyone over here yet, and if the overseas opportunity comes, I’m going to take it. If the opportunity is not coming from overseas, I’m going to be in big trouble because I don’t know where I’m going to play.”
While the location of Nahuel Bonada’s playing future remains uncertain, one thing cannot be disputed. Wherever Nahuel Bonada goes, he will not be bereft of attention.
Image Source: Football Australia