'We have to thank Australia for giving us this opportunity': The magnificent mix of the Caltex Socceroos

Australia is a melting pot, and nothing illustrates that more than the country's national team, the Caltex Socceroos.

Harmony Day, held each year on March 21, is Australia’s celebration of cultural diversity. It is a day which embraces inclusivity, and looks to recognise and celebrate the many nations and cultures that make Australia the rich and vibrant country it is.

With memories of last Friday’s Christchurch terror attacks still fresh in the mind, the search for harmony has rarely been more to the forefront for people across New Zealand and Australia.

The many and varied backgrounds of Australia’s national team players highlights the vast communities they represent.

This mix of cultures is something that has been part of the Caltex Socceroos story for many years, most recently displayed by standout stars such as Tim Cahill and skipper Mile Jedinak.

Cahill – Australia’s greatest-ever goalscorer – has a mix of Samoan and British heritage, while Jedinak’s background is Croatian.

Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak
Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak celebrate the Caltex Socceroos' qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup

The current Caltex Socceroos squad continues that proud tradition.

Perhaps no player illustrates the ideal of Harmony Day and cultural diversity than winger Awer Mabil.

Mabil, as well as recent Caltex Socceroos defender Thomas Deng, were both South Sudanese refugees a decade ago before migrating to Australia and completing a remarkable journey to international football.

The duo made their Caltex Socceroos debuts together last October in a big 4-0 win over Kuwait, in which Mabil got on the scoresheet.

“Flashback nine years ago and we were playing in the park together with our friends and we could never dream of this, the way it has happened today,” Mabil said at the time.

“It’s amazing it has happened, we have to thank Australia for giving us this opportunity. It’s a big dream come true.”

WATCH: One on One with Awer Mabil

Deng added about the occasion: “It’s something we should be very proud of, and our families and people that are close to us should be proud of.

“We’ve both opened doors for a lot of young Africans coming up. I hope there’s more to come.”

While Deng and Mabil hail from Africa, many of the most-recent Caltex Socceroos squad have a European background.

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Milos Degenek and Tom Rogic have Serbian roots, while Chris Ikonomidis (Greek), Aaron Mooy (Dutch), Martin Boyle (Scottish), Aziz Behich (Turkish) and Matthew Jurman (Croatian) underline the variety of the communities which the Australian national team represents.

Massimo Luongo has a mix of Italian (father) and Indonesian (mother) heritage through his parents, while Andrew Nabbout has a Lebanese background, Jackson Irvine enjoys roots in Scotland and the Netherlands, while Mat Ryan and Trent Sainsbury have British heritage.

Mat Ryan
Mat Ryan is mobbed after his penalty saves at the AFC Asian Cup