Abraham Majok remembers watching on in awe as a young Awer Mabil erupted onto the Hyundai A-League stage six years ago.
Little did he know that he and the then-Adelaide United teenager had more in common than he originally thought.
Not only are Majok and Mabil former Kenyan-born refugees to South Sudanese parents, but also happen to be distant cousins through Majok’s grandmother.
Indeed, it is the same Kakuma camp where many hardships were endured by both as young children which Mabil returned to in 2014 to establish his Barefoot to Boots charity, earning him the FIFPro Merit Award last November.
This remarkable journey, coupled with some eye-catching displays for the Socceroos, has catapulted Mabil into the national spotlight in recent months and inspired the 20-year-old Western Sydney Wanderers striker Majok.
The pair's shared story of hope is one mirrored by thousands of African Australian migrants across Australia. And, on the back of his distant relative's rapid rise to stardom, the young Wanderers front man is also emerging as a torch bearer for the most ethnically diverse region in the country.
“It’s crazy how far he’s gone now,” Majok told www.aleague.com.au.
“Having people like him there sets a standard to show that anything is possible regardless of where you come from.
“It gives you that hope that although, okay, I’m in a different country and different culture, there’s opportunities out there for you to make something of yourself.
“You’ve just got to have that belief to push yourself. And with him being there as a role model for the kids coming up now as well to see that you can do something with your life as long as you put your mind to it and keep pushing.
“With myself now, in this position, I meet a lot of other kids as well that tell me that want to be like me.
“I keep telling them ‘just be yourself and you’ll go far’. ‘Just keep believing in what you do’. It’s incredible and it’s unbelievable at the same time.
“Having someone like him there [helped] guide me to where I am today.”
Opportunity knocks in Sydney's west
Majok and his family arrived in Australia in 2005 and settled in Blacktown at the age of seven, where his mother gently forced him to take up football to ease the transition from Kakuma.
It was a move met with initial resistance, but Majok would eventually join local club Marayong and feverishly study YouTube videos of Cristiano Ronaldo and stay back at his local park until darkness.
He was eventually signed by Mount Druitt Town Rangers, with whom Majok received his breakthrough moment - a late double against the Wanderers National Youth League side in 2017.
Majok won the Foxtel National Y-League Golden Boot award last season.
Three players on that evening - Majok, Tate Russell and Mathieu Cordier - all made their maiden Hyundai A-League starts for the Wanderers this season.
The trio join the likes of midfield general Keanu Baccus, goalkeeper Nick Suman and defender Tass Mourdoukoutas as a cluster of Wanderers academy graduates currently in Markus Babbel's first team plans.
“It’s very special for all of the boys, especially through playing the academy together and to be able to get the opportunity to play in the first team,” he said.
“It definitely makes me proud especially to represent the Western Sydney area as well.
“It just shows that anything can happen. I know the area so well, I’ve always been a fan, I’d seen a few games.
“To find myself playing alongside players currently in the team it just like a surprise and a shock that I go through daily."
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