Hard work and dedication have taken Adelaide’s Awer Mabil from kicking rolled-up socks around a refugee camp to scoring a debut goal on the big stage of international football.
- Adelaide’s Awer Mabil and Thomas Deng make Socceroos debut against Kuwait
- Mabil scored his international debut goal in the 88th minute
- The pair were second-half substitutes in the 4-0 win
The skilful winger scored during his first appearance for the Socceroos in the 88th minute of the game against Kuwait at Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium overnight.
In a fitting moment, Mabil’s childhood friend Thomas Deng — also making his debut for the squad — was the first player to share the moment with him.
The Socceroos won their first game away from home under new coach Graham Arnold 4-0 with Apostolos Giannou and Tom Rogic joining Mabil on the scoresheet.
The 23-year-old former Adelaide United winger — who now plays for FC Midtjylland in Denmark — was used as a second-half substitute.
Story not one without hardship
His journey to international football has not been a simple ride, making his way from a refugee camp in Kenya to the biggest stage of Australian soccer.
Born in the Kakuma refugee camp after his parents fled South Sudan, he attained refugee status in Australia in 2006 at age 11.
His family told the ABC they were both proud and excited following his dream debut.
“Obviously being a substitute wasn’t what we wanted, but when he got the chance to go on it made us really happy,” sister Bor Mabil said.
“He scored his goal which made it even better.
“He would have so much joy knowing he had made his country proud… and his family and friends happy.”
She said his journey had taken a lot of hard work and their mother, Agot Atem, was a big reason behind his success.
“[It took] hard work, dedication, and the stamina to get up every morning to follow his dream and follow his career,” she said.
“Mum’s always been there for him from the very beginning.
“She took him to training, day by day, and made sure she was by his side… she has been there for the whole journey.”
Ms Mabil said his love for soccer was one that started at an early age.
“Since he started walking he’s always loved soccer… back home there wasn’t the equipment to play soccer,” she said.
“They would always improvise with balled-up socks and kicking bottles around.”
His mother said she was extremely proud of her son, and grateful to the people who had helped him achieve his dream of playing for Australia.
Awer Mabil’s mother Agot Atem and sister Bor Mabil watch a replay of his debut Socceroos goal. (ABC News: Isabel Dayman)
“I am very happy… thank God,” she said.
“I am proud.”
Mabil shared his win with fellow South Sudanese refugee and Socceroo Thomas Deng.
Deng, 21, is a product of the Melbourne Victory youth program and was promoted the senior side in 2015.
He was born in Kenya and came to Australia at the age of six, making his senior debut for the Victory in 2015.
He grew up in Andrews Farm, north of Adelaide, where he met Mabil.
Uncle says Mabil has ‘followed his dream’
Mabil’s uncle Peter spoke with ABC Radio Adelaide following the game and said he was always keen to make it to the highest level.
“He was driven to play international soccer and because of support from his mother and the relatives, this is how he got to achieve his dream,” he said.
He said a big reason behind his success was his mother, who had worked her whole life to ensure her children had a “better life”.
“He was brought up by a single mother and they went through a lot of difficulty,” Peter said.
“[His] mother did not give up and the relatives as well, they tried their best so that Awer and his siblings to have a better day and a better life and future.
“Because of the opportunity Australia gave to Awer and his parents, Awer did not give up and he really followed his dream.”