When match fit, attacking sensation Awer Mabil is an automatic selection in any Socceroos squad.
The winger boasts European experience, an eye for goal, and the ability to create a goalscoring opportunity out of nothing. With these abilities, Mabil is a handful for opponents, a joy for fans, and an asset to coaches.
But compared to some national team stalwarts, Mabil is still a youngster on the international scene and you do not have to wind the clock back too far to find a time when the then-youngster was plying his trade on loan – and not on the Socceroos radar.
Recently, the 26-year-old was a guest on the Aussies Abroad Podcast where he spoke about some key moments in his career, including his first-ever call-up to the Socceroos.
Before Mabil was creating headlines at FC Midtjylland, he was maturing as a player and a person on loan at Esbjerg fB, and it was there he received the first hint that he was on Ange Postecoglou’s radar.
“I received a call telling me I was in the preliminary 30-man squad for the upcoming games, and you know, that was the biggest thing for me,” recalled Mabil.
“I stayed up just waiting for the squad to be announced, that’s how much that meant to me. I didn't make the final squad but I was really proud it was like a motivation for me.”
The feelings of pride and the desire to make the final selection after that initial disappointment showed just how much national selection meant to Mabil – and while a Socceroos debut was still far into the future – knowing that he was close and being considered was a driving factor in Mabil’s growth.
Having suffered relegation with Esbjerg, Mabil was sent out on another loan: this time to Portuguese club, Paços de Ferreira, where it would not take long for the next stage of his national team career to begin.
“When I went to Portugal I made the 30-man squad again and I still remember receiving the phone call saying that I had made the final squad.
“I cried. I called my mom because this was the biggest thing for me. The feeling I cannot describe it but I cried a lot, and then I called my mom.
“I said to her ‘Look I'm going to Australia and I'm going to Japan with the Socceroos and it’s not the U21s or U23s.’ And she was really, really proud and that for me is a moment that I will always remember."
It was a huge achievement for a young man who had left his family to pursue a lifelong dream in Europe. Through loan spells and periods of not playing, Mabil was on the verge of becoming a Socceroo and he could not have been prouder.
On the bench for the Socceroos’ 2-0 loss in Japan, Mabil was excited to see his friends and family in the stands when the team travelled to Melbourne to take on Thailand in the final group stage match of AFC World Cup Qualifying.
“My siblings came into Melbourne to watch us. Even warming up I felt, really, really good because my family was there and they could see that I'm part of the Australian national team.
"Even though I didn't make my debut it is a feeling that I can never forget. I remember it like it was yesterday and that was a big, big moment for me.”
In total, Mabil was on the bench for six matches before he was able to make his debut – and 410 days after first appearing in a match day squad.
Following the Thailand match in Melbourne, Mabil warmed the pine in the home and away series against both Syria and Honduras before finally taking the field after FIFA World Cup Russia 2018™.
The wait was certainly worth it with Mabil scoring a goal on debut in Graham Arnold’s first match in charge: a 4-0 World Cup Qualifier victory against Kuwait on 15 October 2018.