The 26-year-old calmly scored the Socceroos’ sixth spot kick in Doha before watching goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne heroically save Peru’s final penalty to send Australia to a fifth straight World Cup.
Mabil sank to the ground in disbelief and later told Australian reporters it was his destiny to score.
“I knew I was going to score. It was the only way to say thank you to Australia on behalf of my family,” the winger said.
Mabil was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after his parents fled conflict in Sudan, surviving on one meal a day as a child and kicking a ball around to pass the time.
After being resettled in Australia in 2006, he developed his football enough to join Adelaide United as a teenager and then moved to Denmark’s FC Midtjylland. He is currently on loan to Turkish club Kasimpasa.
“I was born in a hut, a little hut. My hotel room here is definitely bigger than the hut, the room we had as a family in that refugee camp,” he said.
“For Australia to take us in and resettle us, it gave me and my siblings and my whole family a chance at life. That’s what I mean by thanking Australia for that chance of life, that chance of opportunity they allowed my family.”
Mabil has been a regular for the Socceroos under coach Graham Arnold and he said he hoped what he had achieved would inspire other refugees.
“I scored, a lot of my teammates scored, everybody played a part and maybe that refugee kid played a big part,” he said.
Mabil’s brother Awer Bul told the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper his family was overwhelmed with excitement.
“To be a boy who was born in a refugee camp, it was quite a moving moment for our community,” he said. “Just to see him walk out there for the Australian team gives us a good feeling.”