Journey from a refugee camp to the World Cup | sports
awer Mabil will complete an incredible journey from a refugee camp to the planet’s biggest sporting event when he lines up for Australia in the World Cup, overcoming personal tragedy along the way.
The winger’s rise from humble beginnings is what dreams are made of, and the 27-year-old, who plays in La Liga with Cadiz, never forgets where he came from.
“Obviously, he was the foundation for me. He gave me a lot of values that I still hold to this day,” he told Australian broadcaster SBS about his early life.
“One of the main things is humility – to always be humble – that’s what I’ve learned from being in that environment ever since.”
Born in a refugee camp in Kenya after his parents fled conflict in Sudan, Mabel subsisted on one meal a day as a child and kicking a ball — usually a sock full of plastic bags — barefoot to pass the time.
“I was born in a little hut,” he said. “My hotel room is definitely bigger than the hut, the room we had as a family at that camp.”
“For Australia to take us in and resettle us has given me, my brothers and my whole family a chance in life. That is what I mean by thanking Australia for this chance in life, that chance they have given 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 the age of 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 of being in the UEFA Champions League.
After stints in Portugal and Turkey, Mabil was awarded a free transfer to Cadiz this year.
If his footballing career has been spot on, he was a regular with the Australian national team under coach Graham Arnold and played 29 matches for Australia, scoring eight goals.
He scored on his debut in 2018, a game recalled by Mabel and childhood friend Thomas Deng, both refugees from South Sudan, to make their international debuts in the same match.
In contrast to Mabil, defender Dingus Socceros’ career has been derailed by injuries, although he was recently called up to the Australian camp for September friendlies against New Zealand.
Mabel faced another big challenge in 2019 when his teenage sister was killed in a car accident while he was in Abu Dhabi with Australia in the Asian Cup, leaving him devastated.
He was, though, a crucial cog in the Australian side that secured passage to Qatar and a fifth consecutive World Cup.
Mabil was the hero when he converted a shock penalty against Peru in their continental match in June.
He described it as a thank you to Australia for giving him a home.
“He had a dream that one day … he would play in the World Cup and represent Australia,” Mabel’s uncle, Peter Koring, told reporters.
“At 11, that’s when he had that vision. Now that dream has come true.”
Australia began its World Cup campaign against defending champion France in Group D on November 22, before facing Tunisia and then Denmark.
They only got past the group stage once, in 2006, when they reached the last 16. – Asian Football Confederation