July 19, 2012
AUCKLAND – Lower Hutt City and Team Wellington goalkeeper Scott Basalaj has been called up as injury cover for the New Zealand Olympic men’s football team.
Basalaj, 18, flies out tonight to meet the team in London when they return from their fleeting trip to Matrei, Austria where they face fellow Olympic finalists UAE tomorrow morning (4am NZT).
The recent U-17 and U-20 international will provide cover for All Whites stopper Jake Gleeson who is nursing a groin injury picked up in the 2-1 loss to the Korea Republic in Seoul on Saturday. Michael O’Keeffe will start in goal against the UAE.
Basalaj has not replaced Gleeson in the 18 man squad at this stage.
The teenager’s head was still reeling from the last minute call.
“It’s still sinking in,” Basalaj said.
“I had mixed feelings when I initially found out and there was a lot a things going through my head but it’s an amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to get over there.”
He wished Gleeson a speedy recovery and said he was ready to help Neil Emblen’s squad even if his role was restricted to training with the squad.
“Anything I can do to help out the team, even if that’s just an extra body on the training pitch I’m happy to help. Just being able to go over will be an amazing experience regardless of whether or not I play.”
The Oly Whites’ gain leaves a hole for Lower Hutt City ahead of this weekend’s ASB Chatham Cup quarterfinals with Basalaj one of their standouts on their run to the final eight.
“I’m disappointed to miss this weekend’s quarterfinal. The boys have been doing so well and I’m sure they’ll be given an extra rev up without me and hopefully they can get into the semis.”