Young Aussie makes Malta debut

Dream come true ... Jacob Borg in Malta's colours (Image: Paul Zammit Cutajar)

Former Young Socceroos defender Jacob Borg has become a full international player for Malta after he turned his back on Australia to seek greener pastures abroad.

Borg, 22, has played for Australia's under-20s and was a member of the Gold Coast United team that took part in the National Youth League in 2011-2012.

But when the club was sensationally kicked out of the A-League last year, Illawarra-born Borg feared that his promising career was falling apart.

His low morale sank even further when he was snubbed by Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets.

An A-League dream crushed, he decided to make the big move and go abroad to Europe to try to rekindle his career.

He ended up in tiny Malta, the country of his heritage.

Last month his chequered career took a dramatic turn when he made his debut for Malta in a match against Azerbaijan in Baku.

"I had a youth contract at the Gold Coast and I was training with the first team fulltime," said Borg during a break from his part-time job as a barista in Malta.

"But when the club folded I went to the Illawarra to play for Dapto Dandaloo.

"I had always wanted to go to Europe and play there and every morning and every afternoon I would train and work hard to be fit to go overseas."

A chance meeting with player agent Chris Tanner and the owner of Malta's Balzan Youths club provided him with a break he needed so badly.

"I went to Malta for a trial last year and I signed for Balzan where I played a couple of dozen games for them before I was spotted by the national selectors," he said.

"My game was getting better and I was becoming more confident and I got called up for two international matches against Northern Ireland and Italy but I never got on the field.

"In the meantime I signed a one-year contract for one of the country's biggest clubs, Sliema Wanderers, last July.

"I made my full debut for Malta when I came on as a substitute in the match against Azerbaijan."

Borg was in line for a second appearance in the weekend 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Denmark but was overlooked.

"The coach told the media that I was injured but I was not injured at all," Borg said.

"He just wanted a more experienced player at fullback and did not pick me."

Borg, who said he was not too bothered by the omission because "other opportunities will come", recalled the dark days last year when he wondered if he had any future in professional football after finding himself in limbo in the post-Gold Coast period.

"I had a very good year at the Gold Coast and I was hoping to become an A-league player," Borg said.

"I gave Sydney and Newcastle a call but they both overlooked me.

"It made me realise that I had no future in Australia and for me to make a professional career I had to leave my country.

"Now that I'm an international I believe I have made the right decision.

"However I would not be where I am without the help of my mum and dad who have always supported me and all the other people who believed in me.

"My father Mark and Illawarra coach Mineo Bonetig trained me every day since I was a kid growing up in Warilla."

Former Gold Coast coach Miron Bleiberg remembers Borg as a player "who held his own very well in a very strong youth team comprising Zac Anderson, Ben Halloran and Chris Harold."

Borg, whose brother Dylan also plays for Sliema, is happy living on the football-mad island but he believes his long-term future lies elsewhere.

"I will honour my contract with Sliema but at the end of the season I will try to play at a higher level in Europe," he said.

"Playing in Malta has been a good stepping stone for me but I want to move on to a bigger and better league somewhere in Europe."

Source: SBS