Harmony Week 2023: Awer Mabil reflects on football and belonging

Harmony Week is a celebration that brings together people from all walks of life in Australian society – celebrating inclusiveness and respect throughout our multicultural nation. It is being celebrated this year in the week of Monday 20 – Sunday 26 March.

Subway Socceroo Awer Mabil and Legacy ’23 Ambassador shared his thoughts on what football means to him, and how he seeks to use his platform in football for good.

"Football has meant everything for me and my family,” he explained.

"Football has been a big part of my life. Obviously from where we come from, it has changed my life and my family’s life for the better."

Born to South Sudanese parents, Mabil came to Australia as a youngster, having lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for the first ten years of his life. The current Young Australian of the Year spoke with pride about pulling on the shirt to represent Australia on the world stage.

“That moment when me and Thomas [Deng] made our debut together, it felt like a dream, and still to this day, I can’t believe it,” he said.

“I know the responsibility that I have when I wear that shirt. I’ll always wear it with pride because behind that shirt is my family, and in front of that shirt is my country.”

In the year the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, Mabil hopes to encourage women and girls from all backgrounds to become involved in the world game in Australia.

“I became a Legacy ’23 Ambassador because it really resonated with me,” he said.

“I feel like our girls are doing us proud, and I don’t think you should look at women differently when they play football or any other sport, because it’s just everybody expressing themselves.”

Mabil emphasised the strength that multiculturalism brings to the sport.

“I think we’ve really got to support equality,” he said.

“It’s only a big win when we start to see [people from] different cultures or different backgrounds representing Australia. You’ll see a lot of different styles of play, and different people bringing different things to the table, representing one group.”

The legacy of the Women's World Cup, Mabil explained, can be to bring the universal language of football to the next generation.

“Hosting the world here – it’s going to grow our game in Australia. It’s a really big thing for the next generations,” he said.

“Football is a sport that speaks its own language. That language is a world language. Football can change many things, and many problems in this world.

“That’s one of my motivations, to try to use my football platform to bring any difference that I can.”