In the midst of all the chatter about Victorian’s “African gang crisis” over the past few weeks, one face has been getting a good dose of media attention. South Sudanese-Australian Nelly Yoa wrote an op-ed for The Age, criticising the government and Victoria Police for a failure to act, as well as setting out some (apparently plagiarised) ideas for how to tackle crime among youth.

That piece prompted interviews on the issue with the ABCThe Guardian, 3AW, and The Australian

Since the piece was published on December 31, Yoa’s backstory — including his claims to have played soccer in the UK and for local teams — has been picked apart and questioned. But it’s not the first time he’s been in the media with similar background stories:

December, 2012:

Yoa was victim of a machete attack in Melbourne. The Herald Sun reported at the time that Yoa was “on the verge of signing for A-League side Melbourne Victory”, and said he’d missed out on selection after a trial with Chelsea because of his injuries.

July, 2016:

Yoa commented to a number of media outlets about crime among the Sudanese community — putting himself forward as a good example for young people.

August, 2016:

Daily Mail Australia ran a detailed story about Yoa’s experience as a victim of a machete attack in Melbourne, and how the recovery cost him his career.

November, 2016:

Yoa told The Courier in Ballarat that world champion sprinter and close friend Usain Bolt raced to Ballarat Base Hospital by taxi from Melbourne with him for the birth of Yoa’s child. The pair had both been in Melbourne, where Bolt was on a promotional tour. The Courier report said Bolt and Australian Olympic medalist John Steffensen had both returned to Melbourne by taxi once they’d met the new baby.

February, 2017:

Leader newspapers reported on Yoa’s plan to change football codes to Australian Rules — including a call-out to the clubs to give him a chance.

Peter Fray

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