Raised in war-torn Congo and forced to help raise his young family after his parents were snatched right in front of him, Lions FC's prolific striker Kado Aoci's tragic story puts his sporting life into perspective.
Aoci is the prolific Lions FC striker who looms as a key man for the Brisbane Premier League club as they aim to bring down Perth Glory in the Westfield FFA Cup on Wednesday night.
The clash with the Hyundai A-League club is easily the biggest game in Aoci and the club’s history, with a spot in the competition’s last eight on the line.
The 26-year-old’s date with destiny comes less than nine years after he fled a refugee camp in Congo to start a new life in Australia.
He endured two major wars in the country between 1996 and 2004 which claimed almost 5 million lives, including tragically those of his parents.
“When I was nine they came and took my mum and dad from us,” Aoci recalled to www.theffacup.com.au .
“It happened right in front of my eyes…it was so scary. Then we heard the next day my parents were dead.
“It was very tough seeing that right in front of you, especially as we were so young. It was not a good place for us to live. We just had to leave.”
After years in a refugee camp, that chance to immigrate to Australia finally came for Aoci and his brother when he was 17.
“Immigration asked us if we wanted to come to Australia and straight away we said yes,” he said.
“The move here was so good. We were able to eat, go to school. Back home I never played football properly, it was just in the street and I played basketball as well.
“Mainly I was just looking after my brother. But I always dreamed to play football. Before I came here I wasn’t that good but I dug in, worked very hard and did everything I could. Thanks to God he helped me get to this level.”
Aoci is in his first season with Lions FC after spending the last few years with Wolves FC in the Brisbane Premier League.
He has been the competition’s top scorer for the last two seasons – scoring 52 goals in the last two campaigns – including 20 this year.
The lightning quick attacker now hopes to add to that tally against Kenny Lowe’s Glory in the FFA Cup, in the hope of realising his ultimate dream of becoming a professional player in the Hyundai A-League.
“I’m still hoping if everything comes together and I get an opportunity I can take it,” he said.
“I’ve never had any trials but I want to have that so I can feel the difference of the training and also show what I can do.
“I’m very quick and powerful a bit like [Sergio] Aguero or [Didier] Drogba. He (Drogba) is my hero. I hope one day I can see him. As an African he is someone I have always looked up to.”
Aoci and fellow Round of 32 hero Shoheel Khan were rested on the weekend in the Lions' 2-0 loss to Capalaba.
While Aoci will be the X-factor for Lions FC in attack on Wednesday night, skipper Phil Zabaks will also need a big game in goal if the Queenslanders are to pull off an FFA Cup shock.
The veteran gloveman – who wears Petr Cech-like headgear after a serious head-knock in 2010 – expects a torrid tussle at Perry Park.
“Any side coached by Kenny Lowe you know will be well-drilled. They are a strong squad, full-time professions so they’ll have no weaknesses,” Zabaks, 32, said.
“We’re a young side and I tell them every week you need to be concentrated for 90 minutes. If you switch off for a couple of seconds, have a concentration lapse or make a wrong decision it will be costly."
A large crowd is expected at Perry Park with players having sold and distributed close to a 1000 tickets. Around 2500-3000 is tipped for the big game.
However, Lions coach Warren Moon will be overseas for the game due to a pre-arranged holiday and work commitment. Assistant coach Darren Sime and Technical Director Graham Ross will take the reins.
Centre back Matija Simic is likely to be absent with up and coming prospect Tommy Jarrard who is only 16 years old likely to fill in for Simic.
“We have to win our individual battles and give our all. It’s a one-off game anything can happen, we have to believe that and believe in ourselves.
“This is why I’m still playing, we all dream about winning things," Zabaks added.
** For any goal scored by an amateur or semi-professional club against a Hyundai A-League team during the Westfield FFA Cup, NAB will kick-back $2,500 to the goal-scorer's club.