A journey from refugee camp to World Cup

November 6, 2022

Australia´s Awer Mabil rise from humble beginnings is the stuff dreams are made of and the 27-year-old, who plays in La Liga for Cadiz, has never forgotten where he came from

A journey from refugee camp to World Cup

Awer Mabil will complete a remarkable journey from a refugee camp to the planet´s biggest sporting spectacle when he lines up for Australia at the World Cup, overcoming personal tragedy along the way.

The winger´s rise from humble beginnings is the stuff dreams are made of and the 27-year-old, who plays in La Liga for Cadiz, has never forgotten where he came from.

"Obviously it was the foundation for me. It gave me a lot of values that I still carry to this day," he told Australian broadcaster SBS of his early life.

"One of the main things is humbleness -- to always be humble -- that´s what I learned from being in that environment from that age."

Mabil was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after his parents fled conflict in Sudan, surviving on one meal a day as a child and kicking around a ball -- usually a sock filled with plastic bags -- barefoot to pass the time.

"I was born in a hut, a little hut. My hotel room is definitely bigger than the hut, the room we had as a family in that refugee camp," he said.

"For Australia to take us in and resettle us, it gave me and my siblings and my whole family a chance at life. That´s what I mean by thanking Australia for that chance of life, that chance of opportunity they allowed my family."

After being resettled in Australia in 2006, with the help of his uncle, he developed his football enough to join A-League club Adelaide United, becoming one of their youngest debutants at 17 years and 118 days.

In 2015 he moved to Europe with Danish side Midtjylland, playing a part in their title-winning campaign in 2020 and fulfilling a lifelong dream to be in the UEFA Champions League.

After stints in Portugal and Turkey, Mabil secured a free transfer to Cadiz this year.

If his club career has been a touch itinerant, he has been a regular for the Socceroos under coach Graham Arnold and played 29 times for Australia, scoring eight goals.

He netted on his debut in 2018, a game remembered for Mabil and childhood friend Thomas Deng, both refugees from South Sudan, making their international debuts in the same match.

Unlike Mabil, injuries derailed defender Deng´s Socceroos career, although he was recently called into the Australian camp for September friendlies against New Zealand.

Mabil faced another huge challenge in 2019 when his teenage sister was killed in a car accident while he was in Abu Dhabi with the Socceroos at the Asian Cup, leaving him devastated.

He was, though, a crucial cog in the Australian side that secured passage to Qatar and a fifth straight World Cup.

Mabil was the hero as he converted a sudden-death penalty against Peru in their inter-continental play-off in June.

He called it a thank you to Australia for giving him a home.

"He had a dream that one day... he would play at a World Cup and he would represent Australia," Mabil´s uncle Peter Kuereng told reporters.

"At the age of 11, that´s when he had that vision. That dream is now achieved."

Australia kick off their World Cup campaign against defending champions France in Group D on November 22 before facing Tunisia and then Denmark.

They have only got through the group stage once, in 2006, when they made the last 16. --AFP

A journey from refugee camp to World Cup