Australia has a long-standing history with Iraqi football and Mario Shabow is the latest player caught in the crossways between the two nations. Soon to be 20 years old, the youngster has settled down in Australia and has represented their U20 national team 13 times with 5 goals to his name. He was born in Baghdad, Iraq, to Assyrian parents and moved to Australia at 6 years of age. This should be music to the ears of Iraqi fans worldwide, who are keen to see the national team have the best possible players available for selection.
Mario’s career started at the tender age of 9, where he signed for Liverpool Olympic. However, it was his move to Marconi Stallions at 13 year’s of age that put him on the radar of Australia’s top clubs. It was only a year before Blacktown City came calling for his signature.
Western Sydney Wanderers, in the A-League, took a gamble and signed the Iraqi expat to a season-long deal. Plenty of quality performances for the reserves left Mario wanting for more first team action, leading to his transfer to Newcastle Jets in 2017. Also among his newly acquired tastes were first team opportunities in Asia’s footballing finest in the AFC Champions League.
The attacking midfielder attributes his love for the game to growing up watching Ronaldo, Iniesta, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He told IraqFootball.me; “I knew from a young age that I wanted to become a professional footballer. Since then, I never doubted my ability to play and always worked hard to achieve my goals.”
In his second season at Newcastle Jets, Mario has had a tough time cementing a first time spot in a talented squad. “We are doing very well as a team and I think I’ve played a role in our success, as has everyone. Halfway through the season, we had a lot of injuries and I was called into the team against my former club, coming on in the 70th minute. I was involved in a further 6 games, where I made an impact. However, this was always after coming off the bench. As a young player involved in the first team, I know I have a lot to learn in order to develop and become a first team regular.”
Reda Al-Taay, an Australian-based football agent has been working hard on finding Mario the next club in his career that can offer him regular first team opportunities. Mario is still young and needs plenty of minutes in order to continue his development.
“I’d describe myself as ambitious and a highly competitive player”, said the young midfielder. “I’m extremely confident playing under pressure and always give 100% in training and on the pitch. The areas in which I excel most are my positioning, technique and awareness on the ball. I want to continue developing as a footballer and one day play at the highest level in a European club, as well feature in the World Cup. I hope that kids will one day look at my story and see me as a role model – someone they can look up to.”
Mario has had an impressive spell with the Australian U20 squad, making 15 appearances and scoring in the 2015 AFC U19 Championship. Further goals against Indonesia and Vietnam in the 2016 AFF U19 Youth Championship grew his profile further. He was again named in squad for the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship, where his goal was the deciding factor between Australia and China in the opening game.
The youngster’s profile is growing by the day and he will inevitably be looking for a new club that can provide him with plenty of opportunities to help him develop into a more complete footballer – something that can only happen with regular football and experience. Whilst Mario has yet to make an appearance for the Australian first team, he remains eligible to play for Iraq should the FA contact him with a tempting offer. If the Iraqi FA is serious about having this young talent in their ranks, then they’d better hurry up as it won’t be long before he’s playing for the Socceroos.
This article was co-written with Reda Al-Taay. Reda is a professional football agent operating in Sydney, Australia and works closely with numerous Iraqi players. You can contact him on Instagram, his personal email (email@example.com), or using the comment section below. We thank Reda for his contribution to IraqFootball.me and look forward to working closely with him on future projects.