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Soccer star launches mental health campaign

4 February 20191 comment

Former Sudanese refugee and rising Australian soccer star Awer Mabil has quietly launched a campaign about mental health.

Awer, 23, scored on his Socceroos debut in October and bagged two goals in three games at the Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates recently.

He celebrated the goals, as usual, in distinctive fashion – covering his mouth with one hand and with two fingers from the other hand pointing at his forehead, signifying the need to open up about mental problems.

It’s for people suffering from mental problems or depression. It’s trying to create awareness for them and bring peace to their mind,” Awer said.

“They need to be open and realise that there’s people out there that care for them. A lot of people are going through a tough time but it’s all in the mind, so you just need to talk to people and open up to someone,” he said.

Not your average soccer player, Awer spent his childhood in a mud hut in a camp as a refugee from conflict in Sudan.

But after being resettled in Australia he has risen to become one of the country’s most promising players.

Mental health is a subject that’s close to Awer’s heart after witnessing mental problems “all over the world”.

“It’s something that I keep in mind because I know a lot of people suffer from it. The sport we play, we’re very grateful but it’s not easy, it’s not what people think it is,” he said.

“People suffer from being alone – you can have all the things in the world but if you don’t have peace of mind, what’s the point?”

“I’m a person for the people and I want to make sure that the people are okay.

“If I can represent the people at an international level, I will do that. And that’s what I do for my celebration, for all the people,” Awer said

Awer also co-founded the Barefoot to Boots charity, with Adelaide businessman Ian Smith, for people living in refugee camps, further demonstrating the caring attitude which he says he owes to his mum.

“I think the way my mum raised me in terms of the values that she put into me, she’s a single mother and she’s taught us a lot,” he said.

“A lot comes down to how she’s raised us and big credit to her — everything that I have is because of her,” Awer said.

Awer was born in Kenya’s giant Kakuma refugee camp after his parents fled Sudan, surviving on one meal a day as a child and kicking a ball around to pass the time.

But after being resettled in Australia in 2006, he developed his football enough to join Adelaide United as a teenager and then moved to Denmark’s FC Midtjylland, surviving two loan spells before nailing down a regular spot this season.

The right winger has seized his Socceroos opportunity with both hands, quickly becoming part of the starting eleven.


Laurie Nowell

AMES Australia Senior Journalist