When Sobhi Shaker was 19, he trained to become a professional football player. Then the Syrian civil war happened and Sobhi had to let his dream go. For his safety, Sobhi had to spend most of his time indoors.
“I was stuck at home with my friends and family. So to past the time, we played a lot of card games. Then I wondered if there is more I can do with the cards and I started looking up card tricks on the Internet,” Sobhi, now 24, said in a phone interview.
Eventually, Sobhi was hooked on performing card tricks. He’d practise all the time and even perform card tricks for his friends and family.
His mother was not a fan.
“I still remember how I’d practise in the kitchen till late at night, leave all the cards on the floor and go to bed. The next day, my mum would throw all the cards away,” he said.
Then in 2015, Sobhi’s parents made the difficult decision to move him to Malaysia where he was to meet a family friend and start work.
“They wanted me to have a better future.”
Sobhi worked as a waiter at a restaurant in Shah Alam, Selangor. He is now a supervisor at the restaurant.
“After work, I will continue to practise my card tricks for four hours. Life in Malaysia at the beginning was hard but I got used to it. Of course I miss my family. We talk to each other every day. It’s sad when the Internet connection is bad because we can’t hear each other.”
He then made the decision to audition for the second season of Asia’s Got Talent, representing Malaysia.
He thought it was finally time for him to showcase his talent to a wider audience.
“Whenever my friends here see me practise, they think I’m wasting my time. They are right. They want to see results and I want to show them that I can make something out of my card tricks on Asia’s Got Talent.”
Meeting David Foster, Anggun and Jay Park on Asia’s Got Talent
Sobhi recalled feeling nervous when he appeared before judges David Foster, Anggun and Jay Park.
“You can see me shaking in the audition video.”
But he got three “yes” from the judges.
“I feel proud. I can see that my dream is becoming a reality. Then when I found out I got into the semi-final, I told myself to practise more and do something bigger for the judges. I practised for six hours now, on my way to work and whenever I have free time,” he said.
The grand prize winner of Asia’s Got Talent is set to receive US$D100,000 (RM408,000). Last year’s winner was El Gamma Penumbra, a dance troupe from the Philippines. If Sobhi wins Asia’s Got Talent this year, he said it would help change his life.
“First, I want to do something for my family in Syria. I think about them all the time and how they sacrificed a lot for me to have a better life.
“(I would also use the money to) improve my tricks with better equipment. Maybe buy a phone and a car.”
He shared that his family in Syria is supportive of his involvement in Asia’s Got Talent. Oh, and now his mum has tips for him as well.
“She said I looked so tense in my audition video. So she told me to relax and smile more!”