Mabior Chol is using his stature as a burgeoning Richmond star to help his community.
Mabior Chol is using his stature as a burgeoning Richmond star to help his community.

Chol mastering the art of giving back

Given opportunities in Australia that his parents could only dream of, Mabior Chol is determined to give back.

Each week, the 22-year-old spends an evening in Collingwood with up to 15 teenagers of South Sudanese backgrounds to help support them and set their lives on the right path.

Sick of seeing headlines about African gangs causing trouble around Melbourne, Chol decided earlier this year that he wanted to step in and help a community close to his heart.

And as a Richmond-listed footballer with a story to tell, the youth Chol has been working with as an ambassador for 'The Growth Project' have hung on his every word.

 

Richmond’s Mabior Chol has been working closely with the South Sudanese community in Melbourne. Picture: Mark Stewart
Richmond’s Mabior Chol has been working closely with the South Sudanese community in Melbourne. Picture: Mark Stewart

"Something I'm really passionate about is giving back to my community and working with my community people," Chol said.

"What's been happening in the media lately with all the South Sudanese kids doing the bad stuff, I'm just trying to be a great role model to them and someone they can look up to and trying to help set them up on the right pathway.

"They're all wonderful kids, very humble and respectful. But I think sometimes when people see them on the street they think, 'Oh, they might be trouble because of their skin colour'. I don't think anyone should get discriminated because of the skin colour or where they come from. Everyone can think differently but at the end of the day we're all the same."

 

Chol has worked hard to make himself hard to drop during the Tigers’ injury struggles. Picture: AAP
Chol has worked hard to make himself hard to drop during the Tigers’ injury struggles. Picture: AAP

 

Chol can relate to the youth he is working with.

He was born in South Sudan before his parents made the difficult decision to flee the war-torn nation when he was just two years' old.

What followed was a stint in Egypt as a new life in Australia was sought, the family eventually granted visas and moving to Brisbane in 2005 when Chol was an eight-year-old.

"Mum and dad decided to move to get a better life because what was happening back home wasn't really stable for my family and I," Chol said.

"There were a few tough moments. We probably copped a bit of racism as well, growing up in Egypt. But I don't think mum and dad worried too much about it. We knew we were going to get out of there as soon as we got out visas.

"I'm just glad to be here and having my family very stable and very healthy."

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Chol gets a Gatorade shower for his first win in the yellow and black. Picture: Mark Stewart
Chol gets a Gatorade shower for his first win in the yellow and black. Picture: Mark Stewart

Chol's family is not small.

He is one of seven children, with four brothers and two sisters.

Family time is "pretty crazy", but Chol relishes every opportunity he gets to head home to Brisbane.

"Being the oldest, I've got a lot of responsibility for my younger siblings and every time I go back home there's a lot of joy spending time with them," Chol said.

It was his first year of high school in Brisbane that Chol fell into footy.

The school football team was short on numbers and Chol fit the bill for the vacant ruck spot.

Before the call-up, Chol "didn't even know the AFL existed".

"They just saw the tallest bloke at school and picked me to play as a ruckman," Chol said.

"I was lucky enough to play in the grand final at the Gabba and I thought, 'This is pretty cool'. I think that's what attracted me to play the game."

 

Chol played in the Future Stars game two years ago. Picture: Sarah Matray
Chol played in the Future Stars game two years ago. Picture: Sarah Matray

 

Chol's AFL career could have been short-lived.

A broken foot last year came just when he was on the verge of playing senior football with the Tigers on the back of some strong VFL form.

At the end of the year, the 200cm ruckman-forward was delisted, only to be thrown a lifeline when he was picked up again by Richmond in the rookie draft.

Having played just one AFL game before this year - in Round 23, 2016 - Chol will run out for his fourth game on the trot against Greater Western Sydney today.

 

Since returning for his first AFL outing in 1020 days against Adelaide in Round 13 he has grabbed his opportunity with both hands.

"He's got some incredible traits that can make everyday AFL players look silly," Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said of Chol.

"It's managing to keep the consistency of his performance to the level he'd like that has probably been his downfall. But he's worked incredibly hard, had a great off-season. He had an injury-interrupted year last year so that was probably cause for the delisting. But the reality is when he plays at his very best he's a very, very handy AFL player."

 

Mabior Chol lived with Tigers coach Damien Hardwick when he first arrived in Melbourne. Picture: AAP
Mabior Chol lived with Tigers coach Damien Hardwick when he first arrived in Melbourne. Picture: AAP

 

Chol lived with Hardwick for his first four months in Melbourne after first being drafted in the 2016 rookie draft.

He has since settled in with a host family and taken on an unusual nickname - 'Two Phones' - courtesy of former teammate Shaun Grigg and Richmond legend Matthew Richardson.

However, Chol says the nickname makes little sense.

He only owns one phone.

"They were saying I had this phone for the ladies and this one for the business," Chol said.

"It was all a made-up story but it's been interesting having that name."

So does he go all right with the ladies?

"Nah, nah, definitely not," Chol says with a laugh.

 

Chol has plenty of dash. Picture: Getty Images
Chol has plenty of dash. Picture: Getty Images

 

Chol does not like to think about where his life would be had his parents not made the decision to leave South Sudan when they did.

"I haven't really thought of that too much," Chol said.

"But I think personally and for my family as well, if mum and dad didn't make that move I don't think we'd have the opportunities we have now.

"My siblings and I got the opportunity to get education. Mum and dad never had that so they've really encouraged us to study. At the same time we're trying to give back and make our parents proud."

Giving back is the constant theme in Chol's life and will again be on show today when members of his youth group form a guard of honour on the MCG as the Tigers run out for their 'Many Cultures Festival' match against the Giants.

"I'm just glad I have something that can clear my mind off footy and bring me a lot of joy, working with kids that I enjoy seeing all the time," Chol said.

"I can't wait to see the smiles on their faces when we run out this weekend."

 

 

Richmond has a multicultural themed game this weekend. Picture: Mark Stewart
Richmond has a multicultural themed game this weekend. Picture: Mark Stewart
News Corp Australia


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