Teenager Jawadi seeking greater fortunes

As a refugee from war-torn Afghanistan, rising star Iqbal Jawadi needs little motivation to make the most of his chance as a professional footballer.

Some players do it for the money and some simply play for the love of the game.

But you'll be hard-pressed finding a more impressive teenager than Dandenong Thunder's Iqbal Jawadi who desperately wants to play football simply to help out his mother and other family members, some of whom live in war-torn Afghanistan.

Jawadi's hopes of making it to the Hyundai A-League are no pipe-dream, either. The 18-year-old may have been the youngest player on the Dandenong Thunder's roster, but under the guidance of expert coach Chris Taylor, Jawadi helped his side achieve the treble for the first time as they won the Victorian Premier League Minor Premiership, the Football Federation Victoria (FFV) Cup and the VPL Championship Final in 2011-12.

Jawadi's efforts have made Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi sit up and take notice. But the player looks more likely to end up at Gosford and become a Mariner as he follows in the footsteps of Mustafa Amini, the league's only previous player of Afghan descent, who now plies his trade with Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund.

The potential journey to Gosford has been a long one for Jawadi, though, one that started in Afghanistan and has taken him to India and finally Australia.

Born in 1994, just as the Taliban emerged as a political and military force in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops five years earlier, Jawadi was just four months old when his mother opted to flee her native country and start a new life elsewhere.

"We actually moved from Afghanistan to India because of the war," said Jawadi. "I was just young. I was just born in Afghanistan and then I moved.

"All I know is that it was a really hard time for my family to get out of that situation because my mum was single then and she had five kids, so for her to get away was a big factor.

"My step dad helped us out, because it was so hard to get out of the country, you need someone to help them get out like that. Apparently they went by train."

For the next seven years Jawadi grew up in the Indian capital of New Delhi before eventually finding his way to Melbourne.

According to the 18-year-old, things have still never been easy for the family, despite the opportunities life in Australia has brought.

But one moment many years ago may ultimately have a great bearing on Jawadi's life and the lives of other family members in Australia and Afghanistan.

"When I came to Australia I had no clue what soccer was," he said.

"I'd never played it in my life. I didn't know what it was, never watched it or anything.

"My brother brought a ball over though and from then on I was kicking it around."

And kick it around he did, gradually working his way up through club football ranks and into the NTC program.

But it was his Thunder coach, Taylor, who really gave Jawadi the opportunity to make a name for himself.

"Chris Taylor, he had me in his state team at 15. But when I was 15 no-one knew about me," Jawadi explained.

"But at 15 he (Taylor) told me you're going to go on to bigger and better things and he said keep in touch.

"After the state team finished I played for another two years at NTC ... but from there nothing happened either.

"And that's where Chris Taylor came in and he called me to come and train with Thunder.

"I was the youngest player in the team and to play in all three competitions and win them for the first time for the club was fantastic.

"And I was the first Afghan to play in there and for my family it was a big thing.

"To be honest I really want to make it as a footballer to help my family out.

"I love football but for me it's a way to help my mum out after all she's been through.

"For me to be able to play soccer, I'm thankful for that. To see my other cousins, they're stuck in Afghanistan and I'm thankful everyday when I wake up.

"I'm thankful to God, I'm thankful to my mum that I came here.

"It's still hard for us now but it's much better than other people I know. But at the same time I want to help my whole family out."

Time and again during our chat, Jawadi expresses his thanks to Taylor for all his support and for also alerting Mariners' coach Graham Arnold to the teenager's talents as Jawadi looks to take his game to the next level.

Arnold's track record with developing young talent is certainly an impressive one as Amini has progressed on to Dortmund, while the latest youngster to fill the club's No.10 role, Tomas Rogic, was selected by Holger Osieck for the Qantas Socceroos side that will face South Korea in the November 14 friendly.

"I went there (Gosford) for a week training with the boys and it was great there," said Jawadi

"Graham Arnold, his training sessions are really good. I really liked it up there.

"My coach Chris Taylor said that Graham Arnold is one of the best coaches in the A-League for giving young people an opportunity. It would be a great opportunity to play under him."

Photo credit Jarrad Potter