From the air Kakuma in Kenya’s north, about 14 hours pot-holed drive from Nairobi, is almost reminiscent of the small mining towns that dot the Australian landscape.
One of the world’s oldest and largest refugee camps, Kakuma’s shining tin roofs and quaint tumbleweed fences cover over 31 kilometres of the Kenyan desert, providing the closest thing to home for 180,000 refugees from 19 countries.
But while the camp now boasts its own thriving markets, rudimentary bank, taxi service and even an organised football league – the Kakuma Premier League - if it seems like an oasis among the war-torn countries and humanitarian catastrophes surrounding it, it isn’t. Despite continual UNHCR development, the region still suffers from sandstorms, malnutrition, communicable diseases and malaria.
And when Awer Mabil was born there in 1995, it was a lot worse.
"We built a hut out of mud," he told BBC World Football in November last year. "Probably the size of one bedroom in a normal house in the Western world, as you would call it.
"But you know it's not your home. There were four of us living in it - me, my mum, my brother and sister. We got food from the UN once a month.
"We had one meal a day, which was dinner,” he said later. “There was no such thing as breakfast or lunch.”
At 11-years-old Mabil and his family relocated to Australia as part of a humanitarian program. His tale of displacement is a familiar narrative in Australian football, similar to that of Thomas Deng, Elvis Kamsoba and Kenny Athiu – but relatively few know it. Even fewer know the challenges he faced when he arrived…
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2019 promised to be such a bright year for Australian football. New FFA board, a Women's World Cup tilt, an Asian Cup defence, new expansion clubs on the horizon...it finally seemed as if the game was capturing the round-ball shaped spotlight for all the right reasons.
To say the least, things haven't panned out that way. While everything from grassroots crises to boardroom controversies have shaken the game's very foundations, for the Socceroos’ role-models, the end of the teenies (noughties…teenies?) haven't fared much better.
Aaron Mooy’s already been relegated from England’s top flight, Mat Ryan’s only holding on by a thread. Mat Leckie, Daniel Arzani and Tom Rogic's campaigns have been wrecked by injury, while in the land of clogs and windmills, Trent Sainsbury and Aziz Behich have barely featured.
But as April lumps into May and even greater challenges emerge on the horizon, there is one bright spark making waves in Aussie football for all the right reasons. You already know who we’re talking about.