Sturdy Borg: embodies City passion Published on: 12-04-2011
Sturdy Borg embodies City passionWhen, in June 2009, Valletta announced the signing of Steve Borg from Mosta, the initial reaction was mixed.
The sceptism had nothing to do with Borg's potential as the then 21-year-old had already forged a reputation as one of the most promising Maltese defenders.
The doubts swirled around his prospects of regular first-team action with a team already packed with stellar names, not least in defence where Luke Dimech and Kenneth Scicluna were the first choice centre-halves for then coach Ton Caanen.
Although Valletta's move for Borg was motivated by the need to increase their defensive options following the sale of Josef Mifsud to Sliema, cynics also suggested that the Citizens may have been stung into action by reports that their rivals had stepped up their chase of the Mosta starlet.
Whatever the motives behind Valletta's swoop for Borg, the question marks have long been supplanted by bold, positive answers as the sturdy defender has become a mainstay in the team.
"I've never feared taking on a new challenge", Borg said of his decisionto join Valletta two years ago.
"I knew that Valletta had a very strong squad but I was dconfident in my abilities of gaining a first team place.
"It was difficult to do that in my first few months though. I was not in the starting team for the first seven games of the season but I came on in the second half of the match against Hamrun and did quite well. The coach began to show more faith in me after that game.
"There were many people who told me to reflect long and hard before deciding to move to Valletta. There was some concern about my first-team opportunities because of the strength of Valletta's squad but I didn't have second thoughts.
"I've been playing regularly for some time and I'm happy here. "You always have to be motivated and give your 100 per cent because the competition for places is very strong. No player is guaranteed a place in the team but this is the general rule in football, not just Valletta".
In Borg's mind, the pulses of playing for a glorious club like Valletta outweighed the potential minuses.
"For me, joining Valletta was a massive incentive," Borg observed. "I've always wanted to play for a big club that is habitually challenging for the major honours".
Borg has already helped Valletta win the National League 100 Anniversary Cup, the FA Trophy and the Super Cup. He is firmly on course to add a Premier League medal to his growing collection, what with the Whites 12 points clear at the top with only four games left.
Valletta have plundered a staggering 54 goals in 24 unbeaten matches but their imperious march at the top of the Premier League has been underpinned by a strong defence that has conceded only 13 goals so far.
"My level of satisfaction about the season is 10 out 10 so far," Borg said.
"That's not to say that everything has been perfect because there were some games in which we could have done better but the collective spirit has been outstanding.
"We're still unbeaten and I'm very happy about that. My wish to win the league without conceding a defeat is shared by my team-mates. "On a personal level, I've started all games bar the first one against Vittoriosa. It's been a good campaign so far".
Pride and passion are synonymous with Valletta and, in a short time, Borg has come to epitomise those values, much to the delight of the club's followers.
"The supporters have been good to me," Borg said.
“I think they respect me because they appreciate that I always try to give my all on the pitch.
“All players who do well for this club win the hearts of the fans.”
Having struck up an excellent rapport with the fans, Borg must be thrilled by the prospect of taking part in what promises to be a massive title party come May 7.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm now that we’re so close to winning it (title) but we have to remain con-centrated,” Borg said.
“When it’s time to party, we will do that together with the supporters. Valletta are the best-supported club here and the fans are famed for their celebrations.
“Winning the title would bring great joy to the fans, especially after the team missed out on the league the past two years. As far as the players are concerned, we also want to enjoy ourselves but we have to be prudent because we also have the FA Trophy to aim for.”
Borg’s versatility is an added bonus for Valletta coach Jesmond Zerafa who has used the towering defender at centre-half or right-back. With Borg excelling in both roles, it’s hard to decide which position suits him best.
“I feel comfortable in both posi-tions,” Borg said.
“I’m used to juggling between centre-half and right-back because it was also like that with the Malta U-19 and U-21 teams. If I had to choose, I think I’d prefer a central role because I have more exper-ience there but I also enjoy playing at right-back because you get more chance to push forward.”
Borg’s emergence as a key player for Valletta didn’t go unnoticed by Malta coach John Buttigieg who called him to join the national squad in January. His reassuring performances suggest that it’s a matter of when not if Borg will start pushing for a regular place with the national team.
“I’m delighted to be part of the national squad,” Borg said.
“I’m looking forward to making my debut for Malta in the near future. I’m still 22 and I prefer to do things one step at a time.
“The next challenge is to try and become a regular for the national team. I know it’s not easy to achieve that at international level but I believe I can make it.
“I have only been training with the squad since January. I was not included for the friendly match (against Switzerland) and then had to skip the qualifier against Greece because of academic commit-ments.”
Valletta may have given Borg the platform to showcase his talent but in his mind, the breakthrough came 10 years ago when he was chosen to be part of the national U-12 pool.
“Joining the national set-up at a very young age helped me a lot,” Borg said.
“I have been in every national squad (at youth level) from U-12 onward. This aided my develop-ment as a player as I was training in excellent facilities and under the guidance of youth coaches of a high standard.
“I’ve learnt from many coaches but the most influentual person in my career is my mother as she has always been very supportive.”
Source - Times of Malta - Photo Credits - Ray Azzopardi.