Instead, he says, he makes sure to stay humble — a lesson he learned during his childhood in a refugee camp.
But first he learned to play football on the dirt field in the refugee camp Kakuma, barefoot, where he and his friends made footballs out of plastic bags and balloons.
Awer Mabil with members of Adelaide’s South Sudanese community. Source: australiabusinessblog News
“We’ve made balls out of plastic bags, and sometimes our clothes and balloons. If you want to bounce a ball, you tear open clothes, inflate a balloon and tie it,” he says.
Awer Mabil with his friends and family at their childhood home in Adelaide.
Mabil and his family came to Australia when he was only 10 and he says that integrating into society at that age and not speaking English was difficult at first. He couldn’t talk to local children at school, so he used football as a means of communication, a way that transcends culture or language barriers.
Football was like a savior to me and it was a way for me to communicate.
Awer Mabil, Socceroo
Ian Smith, who serves on the board of Adelaide United FC and chairs Barefoot to Boots, an NGO that supports refugees in camps and their neighboring host communities, says Mabil has “the courage of a lion”.
Mabil has previously tried to make it clear that he is an Australian with an Australian passport, but with the World Cup just around the corner, he also hopes to become the first footballer of South Sudanese descent to play in the tournament – and his friends and family support him at every step.
Awer Mabil with his mother.
Over the weekend, the South Sudanese community of Adelaide embraced him with traditional Dinka dances.