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Culture and courage: Jackson Khoury's journey from Sydney to Statesboro

By GILLIAN MAFFIT, Special to, 05/29/24, 11:45AM EDT


South Georgia's Lebanese-Australian winger and 2023 USL League One Young Player of the Year made international debut with Lebanon in March

South Georgia's Lebanese-Australian winger and 2023 USL League One Young Player of the Year made international debut with Lebanon in March | Image Credit: Dean Lewins/AAP

In the 86th minute of a FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier against his native Australia on March 26, South Georgia Tormenta FC's Jackson Khoury took the field for Lebanon - making his senior national team debut for the Cedars on a warm evening in Canberra. The reigning USL League One Young Player of the Year became just the fourth Lebanese-Australian player to appear for the Lebanon national team in its 91-year history.

Born to an Australian mother and Lebanese father, the 21-year-old has balanced the contrasting cultures since his days growing up in the Sydney suburb of Baulkham Hills. While he admittedly appears 'more Australian,' Khoury has grown more connected to his Lebanese culture, and as he grew, he dove deeper into his Lebanese heritage. Eventually, this connection led to him pursue an opportunity to play for the Lebanon national team. Finally, on March 26, Khoury was able to carry over his passion and culture to a team that he felt proud to represent.

"Being able to wear the jersey and be able to say I am a part of this country and culture, and to represent the country was a spectacular feeling," Khoury said of his international debut. "The passion that you need to play with on the international stage and the leadership to help in any way to better each other and the game for their country is massive."

Before his move across the globe to Statesboro, Georgia ahead of the 2023 USL League One season, Khoury developed at National Premier Leagues NSW side Sydney United 58 FC and later with the Central Coast Mariners Academy. During his time playing in Australia, Khoury was able to learn from older players who have played at levels he aspired to reach. Throughout his time with the A-League side's academy, Khoury got a lot of minutes under his belt and was able to play with more experienced and international players.

After a year in the Mariners' academy, Khoury felt like he needed to challenge himself as a player and as a person. Khoury began looking overseas for teams and started reaching out to people who could help him move to the United States; his connections felt he would be a good fit for a USL Championship or USL League One team. After trialing with Tormenta FC ahead of the 2023 season, the South Georgia coaching staff saw the potential Khoury possessed. The defending USL League One champions were eager to add the young playmaker to their roster, signing Khoury to a two-year deal in February 2023.

While the adjustment of moving across the world and living in a new environment was very difficult at first for Khoury, he was able to get along with his teammates which made his transition much more manageable.

"Everyone welcomed me with open arms, and the transition into playing with everyone at Tormenta FC was very smooth," Khoury added. "Everyone at Tormenta FC is very supportive and wants to help each other reach their full potential and improve daily."

Following a career-best season in his debut campaign for the Ibises, Khoury took home the 2023 USL League One Young Player of the Year award after leading all eligible players with seven goals, 13 total goal contributions and 37 chances created. In his breakout 2023 campaign, the Australian winger accounted for four match-winning goals or assists and registered a career-best three-goal-contribution match in a 4-1 win in Madison on July 26. Khoury's 13 goal contributions were tied for the third-most in league history for a first-year professional behind Arturo Rodríguez's (NTX) 17 in 2019, Jacob Labovitz's (GVL) 14 in 2022 and Tumi Moshobane's (LAN) 14 in 2019.

As USL League One and USL Jägermeister Cup play goes on, Khoury's goal is to help his side reach the USL League One Playoffs after missing out on the postseason in 2023 by a singular point. In 13 appearances for South Georgia across USL League One, U.S. Open Cup and USL Jägermeister Cup play this season, Khoury has tallied one goal and two assists.

While he would be appreciative of any individual accolades received - such as his Week 5 USL League One Team of the Week nod - Khoury hopes to help his team by establishing himself as a leader, something he witnessed the impact of firsthand during his time on the international stage with the Cedars.

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