MARCONI coach Lee Sterrey was sitting at his computer a year ago when an email caught his eye.
The sender, a woman, asked if the club would be interested in trialling Ali Abbas, a refugee from Iraq.
"I don't recall the girl's name, but she knew Ali, where he was staying and had helped him with his paperwork and stuff," Sterrey said.
"She asked if he could have a trial at the club, and I said 'no worries'.
"I did not realise who it was at the time.
"Then I did some work behind the scenes and found out he was an international and had defected to Australia."
Abbas created headlines when he, Ali Khudhair and Ali Mansour skipped out of a Sydney hotel after playing an Olympic qualifier for the Iraq under 23s in Gosford in late 2007.
Mansour has since returned to Iraq, but both Abbas and Khudhair were eventually granted political asylum in Australia last year.
"I put him in a trial with our under 20s out the back, and after two touches that was enough for me. He had a little pot belly and was five or six kilograms overweight.
"But once I put him on the park and saw what he had, I signed him within three days."
A left-sided midfielder, Abbas helped the Stallions to the NSW Premier League grand final, where they lost 4-1 to Sutherland on Sunday.
Abbas, who made his debut for Iraq as a teenager and has earnt six caps, including one against the Socceroos at the 2007 Asian Cup, was back on trial yesterday, this time at the Jets.
He joined Marconi teammates Ousmane Kader Toure, Vamara Diarra, both from the Ivory Coast, and Alex Canak, Sutherland defender Chris Price and former Melbourne Victory duo Joe Keenan and Daniel Vasilevski.
Essentially they will be fighting for one place as an injury replacement for Shaun Ontong.
The Jets have another full-time place to fill, but that is earmarked for a striker and coach Branko Culina expects triallists from Cameroon and Serbia to arrive next week.
"We have two spots," Culina said.
"One we may fill with one of these guys, the other spot we might leave for a couple of weeks and see if we can find somebody.
"The focus, especially after the weekend, is getting a different kind of a striker. If we can't find one, we might go back to one of these guys."
Abbas trained with the Jets once last season but was sent on his way by then coach Gary van Egmond.
After fleeing Baghdad, where his father was killed in a bomb attack, Abbas has settled into life in Sydney and believes he is better prepared this time.
Sterrey, who coached Newcastle in the old national league, is confident he has what it takes.
"He has all the attributes," Sterrey said. "He has time on the ball and a dynamite left foot."