Breakthrough Socceroo Awer Mabil believes a three-year European initiation brimming with hardships and challenges has prepared him perfectly for the rigours of international football with Australia.
Named in coach Graham Arnold’s latest squad today for this month’s home clashes with Korea Republic and Lebanon, AFC Asian Cup hopeful Mabil said if he’d “had it too easy” he wouldn’t be half the player he is today.
It’s only in recent months, after two difficult loan spells and much toil and sweat, that the 23-year-old attacking weapon has forced his way into the starting line-up with Danish Superliga heavyweights FC Midtjylland.
The breakthrough happily coincided with a Socceroos debut and a goal in October’s 4-0 rout of Kuwait in Arnold’s first game back in charge of the national team.
Whilst Mabil’s tough start to life at a Kenyan refugee camp and subsequent migration to Australia as a refugee has been well documented, his football journey hasn’t been easy either.
After signing for Midtjylland from Adelaide in 2015, he made just six league appearances before being loaned out to Esbjerg the following season.
They were relegated and the same fate befell Portugal’s Pacos de Ferreira when he joined them in 2017-18 on a season-long loan.
When Mabil returned to Midtjylland five months ago he didn’t know if he even had a future at the club.
He wasn’t in the squad for the first three games of the season, but fate intervened with an injury providing a belated chance for him to show coach Kenneth Andersen what he could offer.
And after just one start, an impressive 73 minutes in the 3-1 win over Esbjerg back in July, Mabil found himself in favour.
Since then he’s signed a new two-year contract extension which ties him to the club until 2021, and has scored twice and laid on five assists in 11 appearances for the team sitting second in the Superliga.
“I’m glad for all the hardships I’ve faced over the last three years - they are the reason I’m having this great moment (in my career) right now,” Mabil explained.
“If it was all easy I would not be strong enough for this moment, especially playing for the Australian national team and scoring on debut. I would not be ready for that.
“The last three years, and everything I’ve been through, have been responsible for where I find myself now. I’m thankful for all the hardship.”
Mabil is one of the beneficiaries of Arnold’s accent on youth, and his confidence is soaring as he anticipates the next chapter in his unfolding international career.
“Everything has its time ... and I’m glad Arnie is the coach now,” he added.
“His belief in the youth is something that is motivating us. It’s good to know that if you try your best you can be looked at.
“This is a great period and I think there’s a great future for Australia with Arnie in charge.
“I’m taking things day-by-day, game-by-game and camp-by-camp but if I continue to do well hopefully I’ll be involved at the Asian Cup (in the UAE in January).
“I’m in a family orientated environment with my club and it feels the same with the Socceroos. The system is set up for people to excel.”
On inking his contrast extension in Denmark, Mabil said he wanted to show his respect for the club by recommitting.
“It’s the place for me to grow,” he said. “I don’t want to get too comfortable ... I just want to help the team achieve everything that we set out to.
“We have great players and great coaches and we could be gearing up for something special in the near future.
“What I want to be part of is playing in the Champions League or Europa League and winning (domestic) leagues and cups.
“Whatever happens happens but my future lies here. Even during the tough times I had a feeling that this place would be great for me.
“Things are now beginning to work out the way I prepared for. I had offers to leave again but I wanted to put the club first. The club and I have made a good decision and we are both happy.”