More Greek-Australian football talent is making its way overseas, this time in the form of 19-year-old Steven Havales.
In 2017, the young defender joined Melbourne Victory and spent the last four seasons in their academy system. His time there proved incredibly beneficial, giving him the skills that would eventually propel him to his start overseas.
“The most valuable thing that I took from Victory was learning to build a winning mentality, to be the best I can be both as a person with values of respect and being a humble player. I’ve also learnt to value teamwork and to leave everything on the field,” Havales told Neos Kosmos.
Five years on, he’s packed his bags and made his way over to Switzerland to join Swiss Super League club FC Basel, signing on until the end of 2022.
“The opportunity to join FC Basel came to me from a special person in my life, my private coach Aris Xhumbas. He has a contact overseas that knew FC Basel was in need of a centre back and organised a trial for me and within three days, my dad and I were in Switzerland,” Havales said.
“It was a four day trial which became two weeks and then I was asked to sign a contract.”
It was only fitting that the young footballer would take his dad Alex along for the ride, having been there from the moment he first had a ball at his feet.
“I was around six or seven, I would often watch soccer games with my father, but it wasn’t until I turned nine that football became my life and became a part of me. My father has a friend who used to coach little league in a community club locally where I first started…My father and I never imagined it would become an obsession for me,” he said.
Moving to Switzerland has naturally brought Havales new challenges, from balancing his studies, keeping up with family back home and uncovering the world of European football from the pitch, but he’s staying on the ball.
“Since I have arrived, I have adapted and manage accordingly to the schedule that I need to tend to, as my priority as a footballer is to do schooling for language and to play football…In the next year I want to expose my name and become recognised as a young talent and among the top young players in my position as a defender,” he said.
Havales also acknowledges the growing pains he had to overcome in his junior years in order to make it to where he is today. Training his mental health became just as important as his work on field.
“I had a lack of self-confidence through bad patches in my youth days and mid-teens. There were many patches where no matter what I did, I just couldn’t perform what my head wanted my feet to do. I wanted to be a perfectionist in everything I did and with this I hated to lose,” he explained.
The young defender often felt “depressed” and remembers “completely breaking down” after unfavourable matches. Worried about his mental health, Havales’ father even suggested he’d pull him out of football if this continued.
His fate would take a strong turn in the right direction with his determination and drive to find a way to turn self deprecation into accepting a healthy amount of his own constructive criticism.
“It was unimaginable how hard I was on myself… I believe being able to maintain the mentality of knowing I’m the best no matter what anybody else says was the hardest challenge for me to control. The power of what the mind can do and how I’ve harnessed that has made me the player I am today,” Havales concluded.
While his FC Basel signing has undoubtedly become the highlight in his sporting career thus far, Havales is not taking the moment for granted. He hopes his season with the Swiss Super League club will open new doors and give him the opportunity to further all he has learned in his decade of playing the world game.
“I’m very passionate about this sport and I have sacrificed many things in life that kids my age get to enjoy. It has taught me the importance of attitude, teamwork, dedication, discipline and respect…I would like to be remembered as the kid from Down Under who achieved his dream and would like to show the other young players that your dream can come true if you are dedicated and focused on you goal,” he said.
FC Basel currently sit second on the Swiss Super League board and are also competing in the round of 16 Europa Conference League.