The NPL Victoria has gone mad for Mohamed Awad, the new Melbourne Knights attacker from New Zealand via New York and Illinois who is the most talked about talent in the league right now.
Since signing a month ago, Mohamed Awad has been an instant hit.
The former league winner in New Zealand with Eastern Suburbs was put in touch with an agent who assists African players (Awad was born in New Zealand of Somali parents who landed in New Zealand in 1994) move into the NPL.
When Knights lost Japanese playmaker Yutaro Shin to a season-ending injury, the club had a second visa player spot available and was able to sign Awad a month ago.
The 25-year-old from Hamilton in New Zealand has come to the NPL with the express aim of showing what he can do for A-League clubs after slipping through the cracks in his home country.
The plan is working with some sensational displays for the NPL powerhouse.
The tricky Awad, who can play as a 10 or winger, debuted against Dandenong Thunder and scored a beauty off the bench.
In the FFA Cup last Tuesday against Avondale he changed the game when he was moved from wide position to a number 10 role. With fellow Kiwi and former Phoenix striker Hamish Watson in the Knights line up, the pair were a constant menace.
And on Saturday night against Altona Magic, Awad again proved the difference, setting up both goals with crosses with his right foot after turning a couple of players inside out.
FTBL met the Kiwi in Melbourne today and found a player who at 25 is focused on proving himself in Australia.
“I wanted to come here and do well so the Phoenix and other A-League clubs would know about me and would be aware I’m doing well,” Awad said.
“It’s been a very good beginning with the Knights. I couldn’t have come over here and asked for a better start.”
After slipping through the Phoenix’s scouting system, and not making any New Zealand sides at age level, Awad played in the semi-pro NZ national league before winning a scholarship in the USA.
“I played at two universities, one in New York called St Johns. And then I went to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
“It made me a better player, definitely.”
The time outside the country meant he was out of sight out of mind for Phoenix. But perhaps for not much longer?
Awad is set to turn out on Friday night in the NPL for the Knights at home to Heidelberg before a huge FFA Cup Derby against South Melbourne next week in the FFA Cup.
His message is simple: “My goal was always, ‘how good can I become in football?' That will determine where I end up. The Knights brought me over and liked what they saw.
“The story’s not done,” he added. “There’s a lot more to be written.”
Mo Awad, keep an eye out for this exciting talent in 2019.