Socceroos: A true reflection of Australia’s diverse migrant history

Our nation’s migrant history is strongly reflected in the current crop of Socceroos’ whose heritage can be linked to all parts of the globe.

With 30% of Australians born overseas and 49% having at least one parent born overseas, the story of Australian football is part of larger story about our nation’s migrant history.

First introduced in the late 19th century by Englishman John Walter Fletcher, football (or soccer) soon became a space for migrant communities – many of whom fled war and persecution in their homelands – to gather and celebrate their culture and heritage.

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Many of Australia’s oldest football clubs were formed by these immigrant groups: the Greeks of South Melbourne and Sydney Olympic, the Italians of Marconi and Adelaide City, the Croatians of Melbourne Knights, Sydney United and Perth's Western Knights.

Throughout the 20th century, these clubs acted as new homes for migrants arriving in Australia as it gave them a place to play and share their love of the world game.

Australia’s rich migrant history is there for all to see in all our national teams, including the Socceroos.

Current Socceroos born overseas include Martin Boyle and Harry Souttar, who were both born in Scotland, while Awer Mabil is of South Sudanese descent but was born in Kenya prior to coming to Australia as a refugee.

Then there is Mabil’s childhood friend, Thomas Deng, who was also a South Sudanese refugee when he arrived in Adelaide as a youngster.

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Thomas Deng and Awer Mabil
Thomas Deng and Awer Mabil

Milos Degenek was born in the Croatian town of Knin, while James Jeggo hails from Vienna where he spent two years with his hometown club Austria Wien and Apostolos Giannou was born in the Greek town of Naousa.

And, of course, even those Socceroos that were born in Australia come from rich and diverse roots.

Sydney-born Mustafa Amini boasts both Afghan (father) and Nicaraguan (mother) heritage, Brisbane-boy Kenneth Dougall is a blend of Scottish and Thai ancestry, and Massimo Luongo has Italian (father) and Indonesian (mother) heritage.

There is also Tom Rogic and Danny Vukovic whose parents hail from Serbia.

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The Socceroos line up v Chinese Taipei in 2019

Adam Taggart, Jackson Irvine and Jamie Maclaren’s father’s all have Scottish backgrounds. Maclaren even represented Scotland at U19 level before pledging his allegiances to the Green and Gold.

And then there are those who have English backgrounds like Bailey Wright and Brad Smith.

Smith was another player who represented a different nation at youth level with 16 appearances amassed across England’s U17, U19 and U20 teams.

Aaron Mooy was also eligible to represent both Germany and Netherlands through his parents.

Another player with a similar story is Aziz Behich. As the son of Turkish Cypriot parents, he was eligible to represent Turkey, Cyprus or Australia.

Others do not have any migrant stories and come from the ‘big smoke’ like Mathew Leckie (Melbourne), Craig Goodwin and Brandon Borrello (Adelaide), Mitchell Duke and Mathew Ryan (Sydney) and Trent Sainsbury (Perth).

While Adam Federici (Nowra), Rhyan Grant (Canowindra), Mitchell Langerak (Emerald) and Andrew Redmayne (Gosford), Josh Risdon (Bunbury) forged their path to the national team from more rural regions within Australia.

This is just a taste of the truly incredible migrant stories that run through the Socceroos.

They represent us as a nation on the grandest stages, but they also represent us as a society, a microcosm of Australia on a football field.

Australian football’s story is Australia’s migrant story, and the game will continue to be enriched by the contributions of communities from all over the world as new stars emerge to don the green and gold.

Awer Mabil
Awer Mabil in the new home kit