Awer Mabil has dedicated his contribution to Australia’s penalty shootout win over Peru to the people of his country.
Born in a refugee camp in Kenya, to South Sudanese parents, Mabil moved to Australia in 2006.
The talented 26-year-old has forged a fantastic career playing the sport he first learned in that refugee camp, and has become a key figure for the Socceroos.
Tonight he had to settle for making an impact off the bench, and it was his converted penalty that ramped the pressure up on Alex Valera, whose penalty was saved by Andrew Redmayne to send Australia through to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
He told Australian media that stepping up to take the kick, he drew confidence from the thankfulness he felt for the country that took him and his family in.
“I knew I was going to score because it’s the only way I can say thank you to Australia on behalf of my family. My family had to flee Sudan because of war, and I was born in a little hut in a refugee camp. My hotel room here is probably bigger than that hut.
“For Australia to take us in and resettle us, it gave me and my family another chance at life. So that’s what I mean by thanking Australia for giving us that change of life.”
This confidence saw him calmly stroke the ball into the net, giving Redmayne the chance to send Australia to the World Cup with a save. After scoring, Mabil turned and raised his arms to the Australian fans behind the goal, asking for energy and atmosphere to combat that of the 12,000 or so Peruvians inside the stadium.
“The cheer to the fans was to try and say: ‘Come on, we’ve got this!’ Then [Peru] went and missed their next penalty, so maybe the Aussie fans’ energy did help put off their players.”
Like Redmayne, Awer Mabil was full of praise for how Graham Arnold had developed a strong culture within the national team group.
“But he’s been a big part of a lot of us, all of us here. First thing he did when he came into credit family environment. And that, for me is the most important because when you’re family, you will do anything for each other. And all he has done that for us, made us feel like a family.
“Even though it was a difficult qualification phase, we knew somehow we’re gonna make a World Cup, we just didn’t know when the achievement was gonna come. Obviously, we would like to go automatically, but we couldn’t. And also COVID made it really difficult.
“But we stuck together and still believe in what we wanted to achieve and we did achieve that. So it’s credit to Annie, and he knows every single player inside out, you know, it knows me inside out more than probably myself.”
Looking ahead, Mabil says the squad are looking to create more history as they look to replicate the feats of the ‘Golden Generation’.
“We all want to create our own chapter. But we obviously know that the history of Australian football, and the ‘Golden Generation’. We will always be compared to that. Tim (Cahill), Harry (Kewell), (Mark) Viduka, they all were playing a at a top level, and, and we all have young players want to achieve that.
“So, for me, I see as a motivation, particularly when I saw Tim coming earlier this week to talk to all of us, they all give me motivation. I see him and that he’s a normal guy, so for us we’re like, why can’t we score 50 goals?
“Now it’s time for us to write our own future or our own script. That’s going to be interesting because the next goal for Australia is we’re going to qualify directly. For me as a player, it has been shit that we didn’t qualify directly. But we’re going to do that next time, and that’s the motivation for us young generation coming up, that we’ll qualify directly.”