In late 2015, star South Melbourne midfielder Iqbal Jawadi, along with a group of former teammates, visited an orphanage in Fiji.
Jawadi originally went over to participate in a mini soccer tournament to simply raise money for the children. However, once he and his friends saw the conditions in which the youth were living, they knew that donating their time would be just as important as raising money.
“We visited Muslim kids in an orphanage in Fiji and for a day we experienced what they go through in each day of their lives. We sat with them and ate the food that they eat and even saw their rooms and the conditions they sleep in,” Jawadi tells smfc.com.au.
“We played soccer with them; held little clinics and tournaments and they loved it. It was a sort of lifetime opportunity for them, but for us it was the least we could do.”
The conditions made it difficult to set up the clinics, but Jawadi and his friends made the best of the situation so that the kids could get the most out of the experience.
“They had one park between around 100 kids and there was about 20 of us over there so we each took some drills,” he says. “It wasn’t really structured, we just tried to make things as fun as possible.”
“At the end we were taking photos with the kids and the big smiles they had on their faces was just so heart-warming. It was really touching to see how much they love soccer.”
The tournament itself was a raging success, allowing the group to raise over $3000, which is enough for a year’s worth of food and supplies.
The generosity did not stop there as Jawadi attempted to do everything in his power to improve the living conditions of these young children.
“I went over with a whole luggage of clothes and came back with nothing because I gave all my clothes and everything else away,” Jawadi says.
Unsurprisingly, Jawadi describes the experience as somewhat of an eye-opener. But, he himself is no stranger to adversity.
Jawadi was born in Afghanistan on February 9, 1994, a time when the country was being ravaged by war. When he was only four months old, his mother felt the safest thing for their family was to flee.
Iqbal, his mother, and his four siblings, spent the next seven years of their life in India before moving to Australia in search of a better life. Today, as a stalwart in South Melbourne’s midfield, Jawadi has been able to make the most of the opportunity afforded to him.
Still, due to the struggles Jawadi has had to overcome, an ability to keep life in perspective is something that he has always had. This quality was only enhanced by what he witnessed in Fiji.
“Looking at the kids reminded me of the first time I started playing soccer. I had next to nothing,” he says.
“Even today I wouldn’t say I’m as fortunate as others, but when you take a second to stop and look at those kids you realise that you are very fortunate to be in the position you are in because I am really well off when you compare my current situation to theirs.”
Having dealt with hardship in the early stages of his life, there is no better person than Iqi Jawadi to have shown the children in Fiji that life can turn around, and dreams can come true.