Awer Mabil has been named the 2023 Young Australian of the Year. (Photo: Socceroos)

Socceroos forward Awer Mabil has been named the 2023 Young Australian of the Year. He was awarded the prestigious title for his work as co-founder of his non-profit organisation, Barefoot to Boots.

Awer Mabil was awarded the Young Australian of the Year award on Wednesday night, which was presented by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Canberra.

Mabil became the recipient of the award after being recognised for his work as a co-founder of the non-profit organisation Barefoot to Boots. The organisation aims to help refugees with education, health, policies, and gender equality.

He becomes the second Australian footballer to achieve the award, with Sam Kerr walking away with the same honours in 2018.

“To be honest, it hasn’t sunk in yet, but for me, it was an honour just to be nominated,” Mabil said.

“To be able to be named Young Australia of the Year gives me power to continue to do what I’m doing and for me, I love to help people. So I’m really motivated to continue to build on from this.”

Mabil’s story started in Kenya where he grew up in a refugee camp after fleeing Sudan with his family amidst a civil war in the country. At the age of 10, Mabil reached Australia along with his sister, who was always seen as his biggest supporter, she tragically died in 2019 in a car accident.

Beginning his professional career with Adelaide United, Mabil appeared in 47 games for the club across three years before moving to play overseas. Since then he has played in Denmark, Portugal, Turkey, Spain, and the Czech Republic.

“I think this is something that means a lot to us as a football family and also I would like to thank my football family, not just my family. Because my football family is allowing me to use this platform to motivate the next generation of Australians and try to be a good example for them,” Mabil said.

“I don’t try to influence people, I just try to be myself and also stand for something that’s meaningful that can help others.

“I don’t look for recognition or anything like that. I’m just myself at all times and also want to help other people.”

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Mabil spoke to Football Australia about how his non-profit organisation ‘Barefoot to Boots’ got created and what he is most proud of.

“Basically a short summary of how it was created was back in 2014. I went back with my brother and we took a suitcase of clothes and then some footballs. And then I went back there and then gave those out and then I realized that kids were playing barefooted,” he said.

“I’m lucky enough to be sponsored by Nike which gives me a lot of football boots every season, and I thought about, (what) other players are getting. Maybe eight pairs every season. So I went back and then asked all my teammates to collect all their boots and that I would take them back again.

“We did that into the 15 and then from there, barefoot was born.

“I think the biggest thing that makes me proud of Barefoot, is what we did was take some incubators to the camp. We went to the hospital and we realized that premature babies were just being wrapped in clothes and then hoping that they survived.

“But with these incubators, we know for sure the babies will survive and that for me means the world. Cause you’ve given a life just with a simple thing, you know? Or given like a higher percentage of these kids surviving because of two simple machines, or three that were donated to the hospitals there.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson congratulated the Socceroo on achieving the award.

“On behalf of Football Australia and the Australian football family, I want to congratulate Awer on being named the 2023 Young Australian of the Year,” Johnson said.

“Awer’s contribution to Australian football as an immensely talented and popular member of the Subway Socceroos, and to society at large through his charity work, is a testament to the person and role model that he is.

“Football is played by almost two million people across Australia and is more multicultural than any other sport.

“Awer’s story is a demonstration of how football represents modern-day Australia like no other sport and its inherent power to enrich lives and drive positive change within communities.

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