Socceroos star and former refugee Aver Mabil has been named Young Australian of the Year.
Mabil fled the civil war in South Sudan to Australia and became one of the country’s top footballers.
He played at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar months after scoring a crucial penalty in the shootout to help Australia qualify.
But it was his work in “enlightening” the lives of other refugees that earned him this name.
He started his own non-profit organization to help other refugees in camps like the ones where he grew up get involved in sports.
He personally delivered uniforms and other sports equipment to the children.
“A refugee camp is like a prison without walls.
The scheme has grown and hospital equipment has been donated, plus sanitary products for girls who would otherwise not be able to go to school.
Mabil described how, as a child, she made soccer balls out of old plastic bags from trash.
According to him, playing football makes young refugees feel like they belong
“The most important thing for me is to help the next generation,” he said.
People play and forget about the bad living conditions of the camp.”
Mabil, 27, was born in a Kenyan refugee camp to South Sudanese parents before moving to Australia at age 5.
He told the BBC he lived in a mud hut after his parents fled the civil war.
The family lived on one meal a day, and he paid $1 each time to watch football on TV.
In 2006, he moved to Australia as part of a humanitarian program and quickly excelled in football, signing a contract with Adelaide United at the age of 16.
His crucial penalty against Peru helped propel Australia to the FIFA World Cup.
He talked about racism and said that he was once attacked by a neighbor who told him “Go back to your country”.
Football Australia CEO James Johnson called Mabil a “role model”.
“On behalf of Football Australia and the Australian football family, I would like to congratulate Awer on being named the 2023 Young Australian of the Year,” he said.
“As an extremely talented and popular member of the Subway Socceroos, Avery’s contribution to Australian football and to society at large through his charitable work is a testament to his personality and role model.”
His mother, a single mother, collected the award on his behalf as he now plays for Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic in Europe.