Asian Cup full of memories for Abbas
In an ideal world, Newcastle Jet Ali Abbas would be in Qatar helping his Iraqi teammates defend their Asian Cup crown.
Abbas was part of the Iraq team which stunned the footballing world by winning the 2007 Asian Cup and bringing some relief to their war-torn nation.
But a lot has happened to the 24-year-old, who has been named on the bench for the Jets in Tuesday's A-League match against North Queensland, since a 1-0 win in the final against Saudi Arabia in Jakarta four years ago.
The midfielder skipped out of a Gosford hotel while on tour with the Iraqi under-23 team in 2007 to seek political asylum in Australia.
He thought his footballing career may have been over but Sydney club Marconi offered him a lifeline before he was signed by the Jets, where he's now in his second season.
"It's a little bit sad because I'm out of the squad," Abbas told AAP about missing out on Iraq's title defence through the lack of a travel visa.
But while Abbas has to miss out on the tournament, he's keen to ensure the Jets' A-League finals ambitions don't go astray in the closing weeks of the regular season.
Tuesday's match at Newcastle will be the second clash of the teams within days, the Jets having secured a 3-1 win over the league's bottom-placed club in Townsville on Saturday.
"I appreciate Marconi, they gave me my first chance to play here, and secondly I appreciate the Newcastle Jets because they gave me the chance to play A-League football," Abbas said on Monday.
"I'm really happy to be a member of them because I really had nothing and now I think I do my job and it's really good. I hope to continue to do that.
"On Saturday the team won and hopefully they continue to make the top six.
"I think we have really good coaching staff and we have everything, really good players. I think we'll make top six and go a far way from there."
Away from an A-League title, Abbas's other dream is allow his family to see his new Australia life.
"For Iraqi people it's too difficult to come here but I'm trying to get my Mum to come to Sydney for a month or two months," he said.
"I have a big family. I don't see them ... my sister has a new baby now, I haven't seen them, my brothers they have new babies, I haven't seen them. It's really sad."