For the best part of six years, Andrew Nabbout has been brushing off a constant advance. Since he was 19, the Lebanese Football Association have been calling him up to their national team. No matter how hard they tried, he kept knocking them back, even in the times when he felt discarded by Australian football. His reason was simple: he never lost hope of playing for the Socceroos.
"They contacted me a lot, especially in the last few years at Newcastle, because they wanted me to play in the qualifiers leading into this World Cup. In the back of their mind they had the 2019 Asian Cup as well, and they wanted me to pledge allegiance early on," he said. "Actually, it started well before. When I was at Victory I got the first email then, asking where my loyalty lay."
There were times when it wasn't easy to reject the advances. Nabbout is proud of his heritage, he speaks fluent Lebanese Arabic, lists kibbeh nayeh (a traditional dish made with raw lamb) as his favourite meal and is the son of two-times "Mr Lebanon" – his father, Milad, won the national body building title two years in a row before migrating to Australia.
"It was huge for him back then. He didn’t really continue because he didn’t have the financial backing back then. He always holds it next to his name. He shows everyone when they come to our house," Nabbout said. So when his career appeared to have stalled, he mulled over the offer. It was 2015, he had been cut by Central Coast Mariners and was playing in Malaysia."There was a chance my career wasn’t going to kick on much further ... it crossed my mind, what was the best decision to make? Do I play for Lebanon or do I stick to my guns and try and play for Australia?" he said. "For me, my loyalty always lied here, and I’ve always wanted to play for the Socceroos." That chance came this year after his stellar form with Newcastle Jets.Now, despite having turned down the chance to play for his ancestral home, he is determined to fly the flag of his ethnic community. It's one that has contributed significantly to the business sector, politics, rugby league, even rugby union and AFL, but arguably has the least impact on Australian football of any major Mediterranean migrant group.