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Prior to the World Cup in Qatar, Socceroos player Thomas Deng discusses his experiences with racism in Australia.

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Nov-06 05:12 first published at 05:12 AM


Socceroos star Thomas Deng has revealed shocking racism he has encountered in Australia, but the former South Sudanese refugee is simply pleased that he has ‘opened doors for kids like us.’ Socceroos star Thomas Deng discusses his encounters with racism in Australia. In Melbourne, the defender claims he was followed by a security guard. Deng is proud to be ‘opening doors’ for people with dreams like his. Published: November 5, 2022, 22:05 EDT | Updated: November 5, 2022, 22:05 EDT

Socceroos star Thomas Deng has spoken out about coming to Australia as a refugee from South Sudan, dealing with racism on occasion, and the pride he feels while wearing the green and gold.

The family of the 26-year-old defender fled war-torn South Sudan in the 1990s, spending years in a Nairobi refugee camp before settling in Adelaide.

Deng’s love of football, combined with his ability to communicate in English, aided his transition to a new way of life in Australia. Socceroos star Thomas Deng (pictured) has spoken out about coming to Australia as a refugee from South Sudan, dealing with racism on occasion, and the pride he feels while wearing the green and gold. The family of the 26-year-old defender fled war-torn South Sudan in the 1990s, spending years in a Nairobi refugee camp before settling in Adelaide. ‘Because my older brother Peter also plays football, it made it a lot easier for me to make friends at school,’ Deng told ABC. ‘The good news is that football does not require a language. You can make friends just by playing, so that made the transition much easier for us and the rest of the family who came over.’ Deng’s talent and obsession with football propelled him through the junior ranks of Adelaide Blue Eagles to play for Melbourne Victory in 2015. Deng noticed that he was treated differently because of his appearance while living in Melbourne. Deng (pictured against New Zealand) claims that while living in Melbourne, he was followed around by security guards while out shopping. ‘There were times when I’d play for [Melbourne] Victory on the weekend, then I’d be walking through the shops and there’d be security guards looking at me strangely or following me around, thinking that I was going to steal something,’ he says. Deng has attempted to maintain a connection with his African heritage by learning Swahili and visiting family back home, but he has always identified as an Australian. Deng admits that while success as a South Sudanese Australian feels empowering, he also feels a sense of responsibility. ‘There are definitely high expectations for us, and there is no room for error.’ ‘Sometimes you feel like you have to do more than [others] to be seen and valued,’ he explained. ‘It’s a challenge to deal with. But we always consider what that has done for future generations: it has essentially opened doors for other kids like us who have a dream, just as we did when we were that age. Deng remembers the moment he ran onto the field in a Socceroos jersey in 2018 as an incredible experience. What made it even better was that he was playing alongside Awer Mabil, a fellow South Sudanese Australian. Australia’s Thomas Deng and Awer Mabil warm up before the Socceroos’ match against New Zealand. Deng is proud to be opening doors for people with dreams like his. Deng (pictured in Japan, where he plays professionally) captained Australia at the Olympics and was named Player of the Match in their famous victory over Agrentina. An impressive performance against New Zealand in September has prompted calls for him to be included in Graham Arnold’s 26-man squad heading to Qatar. ‘At that moment, me and Awer were thinking about the impact that would have on our family and communities — not just in Adelaide or Melbourne, but across Australia.

‘Awer also scored, making it even more memorable. You can see the celebration we had together, as well as our traditional dance. It was amazing to do that on national TV.’ In 2021, Deng captained the Olyroos at the Olympics and won Player of the Match in their famous win over Agrentina. An impressive performance against New Zealand in September has prompted calls for his inclusion in Graham Arnold’s 26 player squad headed to Qatar. The upcoming World Cup offers another opportunity for Deng (pictured) to show his quality, but also represent to the world who Australia is and what it means to wear the green and gold The upcoming World Cup offers another opportunity for Deng to show his quality, but also represent to the world who Australia is and what it means to wear the green and gold. ‘Australia’s changing slowly … they’re starting to accept people from different backgrounds,’ he said. ‘It’s not about the colour of your skin anymore, it’s about who you are, what you represent, and how hard you work for your dream.’
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