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OKBET OFC Football – Brian Kaltak hopes to inspire with A-League debut

Brian Kaltak is accustomed to waiting for his time, as he is about to make his debut with a professional team at the ripe old age of 29.

Therefore, when the Vanuatu men’s national team captain’s first appearance for A-League side Central Coast Mariners was postponed due to a storm last weekend, he immediately looked at the positives, including a homecoming of sorts in New Zealand the following week. This was because his first appearance was scheduled to take place the previous weekend.

Earlier this week, Kaltak was quoted by OFC Media as saying, “You know, everything that occurs happens for a reason.”

“Perhaps it was fated for the Wellington Phoenix to be the team I made my debut against.”

This Sunday, at Sky Stadium in Wellington, the Central Coast Mariners will face off against New Zealand’s sole professional team. Wellington is the city in which Kaltak began his senior footballing experience with Waterside Karori when he was 18 years old. Even though the player, who has 20 caps for his country, spent some time with the Phoenix in 2011, he did not end up signing with the team.

According to Kaltak, “I was really excited about last week, but unfortunately it did not work out due of the rain.”

“I cannot express how excited I am to travel back to New Zealand,” I said. Because it is where I got my start in football, it would be fitting for me to make my professional debut there. It will be more memorable, and I am hoping that there will be some of my supporters gathered there to cheer me on.

“I am really, really thrilled, and I am appreciative for this chance since it has been a long trip for me. Because of this opportunity, I can now say that I have arrived.” It is a really significant achievement.”

His career has carried him all over the Pacific, with stops in Papua New Guinea (Hekari United), the Solomon Islands (Solomon Warriors), and Fiji (Lautoka), in addition to his home country of Vanuatu. Kaltak is originally from Vanuatu (Amicale and Erakor Golden Star). However, it was in New Zealand that he established a name for himself as a centre-back who was both agile and dependable. He had successful stints playing for Tasman United and, more importantly, Auckland City.

After four outstanding years in Auckland, Kaltak followed the advise of Joshua Smith, the technical advisor for the Vanuatu Football Federation, and traveled to Gosford to try out for the Mariners during the pre-season of the 2022 season. But even then, it seemed as though the opportunity would have been lost for ever after an injury cut short the initial trial time that he was given.

Despite this, though, Kaltak had demonstrated sufficient ability to win over Nick Montgomery, the head coach of the Mariners. After a brief stay with Adelaide’s FK Beograd, he was finally recruited as an injury substitute for Brazilian attacker Moresche last month. The signing came about as a result of the player’s unfortunate injury.

“The injury wasn’t really that awful, but I did think that’s it, my tiny opportunity that I had, it is gone,” says Kaltak. “The injury didn’t really affect my ability to do anything.”

But in the two weeks that I had been with them, I exhibited something, and the coach thinks a lot of me now.

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It has been a long wait not just for Kaltak to play in the A-League, but also for the nation and area he represents.

He will be the first Ni-Vanuatu player to play in Australia’s top flight since Mitch Cooper played for the Newcastle Jets against the Perth Glory in March 2016. Kaltak represents not only Vanuatu, but the whole region. While he is now teammates with Melbourne-born Daniel Hall, who has expressed interest in playing international football for Fiji, the final Pacific Island born A-League player in 2019 is Fiji’s Roy Krishna.

Kaltak met Krishna at the Oceania Qualifiers for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar in March and says the Bula Boys icon “inspired” him.

He now aims to have a similar influence on the next generation of Pacific-based footballers.

“Everyone is excited to have another Pacific Islander in the A-League, and that’s what keeps me and Roy going,” Kaltak said.

“I’m doing the same thing, trying to encourage people.” He is an inspiration to me, and I look up to him. That is why my goal has always been to attempt to acquire a professional contract with any team in the world, but I never imagined it would be the A-League.

“Now it’s up to me to encourage the other students.” If I can reach this level, there is nothing that can stop them or be a hindrance to them.”

Kaltak turned 29 last month and readily confesses that he is entering the professional game later than typical. Despite his lack of experience at this level, he is one of the Mariners’ oldest players on the team. Garang Kuol, the club’s sensational young prodigy who will join English Premier League side Newcastle United in January, is even referred to as his “child” by him.

While Kuol’s rise has been quick, Kaltak’s has been everything but, and he has some sound advise for any aspiring young footballers in the OFC region who want to follow in his footsteps.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” stated Kaltak.

“It can take months or even years.” All you have to do is be optimistic, do little things every day, and keep training. A slight opportunity or a short moment on the field in a game can transform your life.

“It happened to me, and anybody may experience it.”

Brian Kaltak will make his Central Coast Mariners debut in their next A-League match against Wellington Phoenix on Sunday, October 16 at 3.00pm NZT.

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