Almost a decade ago they were young kids kicking a ball together at the local park, dreaming of playing professional football.
Fast forward nine years and good mates Thomas Deng of Melbourne Victory and former Adelaide United forward Awer Mabil made their Caltex Socceroos debuts together in a thumping 4-0 win over Kuwait.
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And to cap an amazing night for the pair, Mabil crowned his first international appearance with a goal, with Deng first on the scene to celebrate with the speedy winger.
It’s been a remarkable journey for the pair, both South Sudanese refugees born in Kenya before moving to Australia as young children and now both playing senior international football for Australia.
“It was very special,” Mabil told Fox Sports.
“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.
“It’s amazing it has happened, we have to thank Australia for giving us this opportunity. It’s a big dream come true.”
Deng added: “We’ve known each other for almost nine years or more now, growing up in the same neighbourhood.
“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.”
And judging by the way both performed in their late cameos, there certainly will be.
Mabil was particularly impressive, causing the Kuwait defence all sorts of problems after replacing Mathew Leckie on the right wing with 17 minutes left.
Three minutes later it was Deng’s moment to come on, with Mabil then putting the icing on the cake with the final goal near the end.
“That goal is for my mother, she sacrificed a lot for me and my family,” Mabil said.
“She is a single mother so she went through a lot. That’s especially for her.”
Deng also acknowledged the sacrifices of his family to help get him to where he is today.
“There’s been a lot of sacrifices along the way, especially our families,” the Melbourne Victory defender said.
“My mum is also a single mother, so this is for her.
“Everything that she’s done for me, all the days she’s been dropping me to training it’s finally paid off. So I’m very happy, she should be very proud of her son and I hope she saw this game.”