It took a while, but Ollie Bassett is finally here. Pacific FC's latest signing joined the club at training on Thursday, bringing an end to his long journey to Canada. Bassett departed London, England a month ago but, due to COVID-19 limitations, his only option was to fly into Cancún, Mexico – where he had to quarantine for two weeks. After that, the 23-year-old Bassett finally made it to Vancouver (via a stopover in Seattle), where he entered yet another quarantine. He finally got the chance to meet his new teammates this past week, though. "Everyone's been really nice, they've all made me feel welcome and stuff," Bassett told CanPL.ca on Thursday. "I'm just looking forward to getting to know everyone's personalities."
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Bassett comes to the CPL with a strong background. The Northern Ireland international – born in Walsall, England – spent almost 10 years in the academy of Premier League side Aston Villa before making a professional debut in League Two with Yeovil Town at age 17. "It was pretty special, to be honest," he said of playing in the Villa academy. "I started training there when I was about seven, but couldn't sign until I was eight. I was there all the way up until I was 16, but that was pretty good. "Every training is just everything with the ball; I think that's where I learned most of my stuff because everything they do is with the ball, passing, touches, stuff like that." Bassett has brief experience representing his country, too, having accepted a call-up by Northern Ireland (for which he's eligible via his Belfast-born mother) to play or their U-19s in 2016. More recently, played a pair of seasons from 2018 to 2020 in New Zealand, playing for Waitakere United and Team Wellington. It was there that the Canadian Premier League first appeared on his radar. In 2019, Bassett met a couple of former CPLers in ex-Valour attackers Stephen Hoyle and Dylan Sacramento, both of whom signed in New Zealand after early stints at the Winnipeg-based club. Hoyle ultimately put Bassett in touch with his agent, who got the ball rolling on an eventual move to Canada. "I had my eye on the (CPL) ever since it was formed in the first season, I know a few of the boys that played here for different teams, and I was asking them about it and what they thought about the league," Bassett said. "I think ever since the league got formed three years ago I was open about coming here, I've said that all along. To get the opportunity to come here now is pretty unique." Recent Cavalry FC signing Ahinga Selemani also made the jump from New Zealand to the CPL earlier this year, and the two league newcomers have been in contact. Now, Bassett is looking ahead to making an impact for Pacific. Naturally an attacking midfielder, he explained that he's comfortable in the number eight or wide positions as well. Regardless of where he is on the pitch, Bassett is just hoping for opportunities to get on the ball and put his technical ability to good use. After representing eight different clubs since his Yeovil debut, Bassett is excited to begin setting down some roots in Canada. "It's been a journey," he said. "Don't get me wrong; it's been a journey, but it's been a good one. I've enjoyed it so far... "I'm just looking forward to getting back on the pitch because it's been a while. I've missed it."