Childhood friends Awer Mabil and Thomas Deng say their joint debuts against Kuwait on Tuesday morning will live long in their memories.
Mabil in particular had plenty to smile about, scoring Australia’s fourth and final goal in their friendly rout of Kuwait.
He found a way in behind the ailing Kuwaiti defence to slide an effort past the goalkeeper off the shoulder.
Both players were introduced late in the game, handed first ever caps by new manager Graham Arnold.
“It’s a really amazing day. It hasn’t sunk in yet but I feel like I’m dreaming,” Mabil said of the evening.
“To score on my debut and to actually make my debut is something special for me and something special for my family.
“The goal is for my mother and my siblings because they helped me along the tough times to get to where I am today.
“This debut and this goal is for them.”
Mabil and Deng grew up together in Adelaide, and share familiarity through family heritage.
Both players and their families migrated to Australia when they were children from refugee camps in South Sudan.
Mabil hoped he and Deng’s rise to international level could provide hope for other South Sudanese children living in Australia.
“It’s amazing. It’s something we’ll tell our grandkids or maybe our kids,” the winger said.
“We’ll say we grew up together and also that we managed to play for Australia together on the same night.
“It’s amazing and something that will live long in our memories and especially for the young Sudanese kids in Australia, this is a pathway we are setting for them.
“They have to realise their dreams can come true and it’s not just Sudanese now, but Australian kids.
“No matter the obstacles in the way, if you follow your dreams and work hard and listen, you will realise your dreams before you know it.”
Donning the green and gold was a big deal for Deng too, who impressed last season for Melbourne Victory.
The defender added right-back to his game, often used out of his natural centre-back role by coach Kevin Muscat.
Deng’s message was similar to Mabil’s, urging youngsters to follow their dreams.
“It’s so crazy, growing up together as kids, and finally achieving something that’s so big, not only for Australian kids but also our community,”
“It shows them that nothing’s impossible. You work hard and you dedicate yourself and the opportunity will be given.”