Emile Damey may have failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations but the Nunawading and Liberian striker says he fulfilled a dream playing for his homeland.
And after the life-changing experience, Damey’s next goal is to land a professional contract.
The 22-year-old fled civil war-ravaged Liberia with his family aged 11 before arriving in Australia as a refugee.
The young striker has been part of the past two Hawks national team squads as they attempted to qualify for African football’s biggest tournament.
Liberia were beaten by Tunisia in their final qualifying game with Damey failing to feature, however he did play in a friendly against Morocco, scoring with his first touch.
“It was a dream come true playing at an international level, it was amazing,” he said.
“There were a million things going through my head getting that twenty minutes under my belt. When I scored the goal everything I’ve done with football was going through my head.
“I was thinking about all the times I trained and now it’s really happening - my wheel is turning - if anything it’s an example that dreams can come true.”
Damey said he felt he finally had some long term direction after a few years of searching.
“Four or five years ago I was in no man’s land, two years ago I was in no man’s land and it shows that you just keep fighting – keep believing in your abilities and keep training and eventually something comes out of it. My dream at that level has been achieved and now it’s about getting something stable in a professional environment,” he said.
Former AC Milan star George Weah was part of the Liberian national team set up with Damey crediting the former FIFA Footballer of The Year as an inspiration.
“He’s always very, very encouraging and straight forward,” he said.
“He was in camp with us and he spent time with us when we trained together and he gave me advice and I did attacking drills with him.
“He was very praiseworthy of my striking abilities and my reaction time and my desire to want to play the game. It was really, really great just having him around and pick his brain in terms of football and in terms of life because he’s been through a lot as well.”
With Liberia not qualifying for AFCON they also now miss Russia 2018.
And although Damey did not feature in the loss to Tunisia he said he still felt the nation’s sorrow.
“It was very heartbreaking not just for myself but everybody else was heartbroken too,” he said.
“It was disappointing that we weren’t able to qualify. I couldn’t sleep the next day until I got on the bus and got to the airport. I was thinking that what a story it would have been to have qualified for the Cup of Nations and to have gotten another opportunity to play there as well.”