Goalkeeper Scott Basalaj cannot put a foot wrong since returning from his ‘O.E’.
In his first season with Team Wellington, he won the National Premiership title. Shortly after, he won the Central League with Olympic. Now in his second season, Basalaj remains in top form for Team Wellington.
He is content with life and enjoys spending time with his partner Claudia and 2-year-old son Olly. While Basalaj would love to play professionally; he is keeping options open. He may even consider a career in the police.
When not playing football, Basalaj teaches kids sport and movement. He also coaches goalkeeping to promising up-and-comers.
Basalaj feels the physical demands of goalkeeping is often not fully appreciated.
“There is often a perception that goalkeepers are slow in the outfield and that you are put in goal for a reason! Although what the majority of outfielders don’t understand is the short and sharp, up-and-down, explosive stuff that we do”
As the last line of defence, goalkeepers appear to have a high pressure role. From the outside, it can even appear lonely. Although Basalaj believes this is not the case.
“I wouldn’t say goalkeeping is a lonely position. You always have a job to do, whether it’s on the ball- passing, kicking, throwing, catching or saving. Also, on the ball- with your communication and organisation”
Born and bred in Lower Hutt, Basalaj’s talents were noticed early. After one year at Hutt High School, the promise of a scholarship lured him to St Pats Silverstream. After consistent performances, he was selected for representative and national age-group teams.
At the age of 17, his life changed. Basalaj accepted an offer to join Scottish Premiership side Partick Thistle’s development team. He swiftly relocated to Bishopbriggs, Scotland in 2013.
Basalaj loved his experience in Scotland. He immersed himself in a country with a proud history in the game, partisan supporters and stunning stadiums.
He loved attending warm-up sessions on match-day with the first team. Basalaj’s favourite fixture was away to Celtic at Celtic Park.
He vividly recalls warming up in front of swarms of green and white fans in the stands.
“Being able to be on the pitch there in an iconic stadium was a highlight. Being in the changing rooms on match-day was something many people don’t get to experience”
“It’s quite a boxed-in stadium and you are only about a metre away from the stands. It was great to feel the buzz from the pitch”
From a footballing perspective, Basalaj learnt a different style of football in the far north.
“Football is a lot faster (over there). When I first got there, it took me a week or two to adjust to pace that even the development players were playing at”
“Everything was focused on 1-2 touches and it was really precise. It was a really good place to see where my game was it”
Frustrated with a lack of game time and a desire to head home, Basalaj returned to New Zealand in April 2015. After a season with Wairarapa United, he signed with Team Wellington for the 2015/16 season.
Basalaj is confident with where his team are heading this season under coach Figueira.
“It took us the first couple of games to understand how we wanted to play. I think in the last few weeks especially, we have played some really good football. I think the longer we are together, the better we will get”
The future is certainly looking bright for one of Team Wellington’s rising stars.
- Rory Milne