Instead, he says, he makes sure to stay humble — a lesson he learned during his childhood spent in a refugee camp.
But he first learned to play football on the dirt pitch at the Kakuma refugee camp, barefoot, where he and his friends would make footballs from plastic bags and balloons.
Awer Mabil with members of Adelaide’s South Sudanese community. Source: SBS News
“We made balls out of plastic bags, and sometimes out of our clothes and balloons. If you want to get a ball to bounce, you rip up clothes, blow up a balloon and tie it,” he says.
Awer Mabil with his friends and family in their family home in Adelaide.
Mabil and his family came to Australia when he was only 10 and he says integrating into society at that age and not speaking English was difficult at first. He wasn’t able to speak with local children at school, so he used football as a way of communicating, one which surpasses culture or language barriers.
Football was like a saviour for me and it was a way I could communicate.
Awer Mabil, Socceroo
Ian Smith, who sits on the board of Adelaide United FC and chairs Barefoot to Boots, an NGO that supports refugees living in camps and their neighbouring host communities, says Mabil has the “courage of a lion”.
Mabil has previously tried to make clear that he’s an Australian with an Australian passport, but with the World Cup around the corner, he also hopes to be the first footballer of South Sudanese origin to play in the tournament — and his friends and family are backing him every step of the way.
Awer Mabil with his mother.
At the weekend, Adelaide’s South Sudanese community embraced him with traditional Dinka dancing.