By Ben Ralph
Oliver Bassett, the Ginger Prince from Packington, Northern Ireland, did not have to play for Atlético Ottawa.
His experiences at youth level at Aston Villa and Southampton would be more than enough of a resume builder to keep a European player far from the chilly capital city of Canada. But when Bassett took a chance and signed with CPL side Pacific FC, his journey to becoming an Ottawa Football icon began. After a stint with Pacific on the bench in 2021, Ottawa managed to lure him out to the nation's capital for more playing time. With that opportunity, he burst to life in the 2022 season, and Atlético Ottawa fans invested heavily in their new cult hero.
Many will admit to having anticipated Bassett leaving in the months following the last season. He easily could have. In terms of personal performance, Bassett had made the CPL his playground, winning last years CCSG Golden Scarf, league MVP and Player's Player of the Year. Though teams undoubtedly came calling, Bassett chose to spend another year in Olliewood. But how to improve on a season which, by most accounts, was dang-near perfect?
In a season wrought with twice the uncertainty of the season before, Bassett proved his worth, not only matching the pace of his player-of-the-season performance from last season but improving upon it. Bassett currently sits on 11 goals, five clear of his tally last season. He has taken on the responsibility of an attack that has struggled to score goals, at some points practically spearheading the Atlético offense as a forward.
With three games to go in the regular season, Bassett looks set to take home another goal-scoring title, but also leads the team in most attacking statistics and has chipped in with three assists of his own. Bassett’s consistency of play while on the pitch earned him the highest grade amongst the team, according to the CCSG midterm player rankings.
But beyond the attacking stats, early 2023 gave Bassett the chance to show off his ability in the few areas of the pitch he had not already conquered. Before the arrival of Zapater, Bassett found himself with the unenviable task of picking up at least a portion of the defensive duties that El Tauro has since undertaken.
Working alongside the industrious Verhoeven, Bassett was lauded by Carlos Gonzalez as a “more mature Ollie Bassett” to last season. Gonzalez said Bassett worked hard to become more influential in both phases of play, with some of his impressive defensive contributions including a team-leading 120 ball recoveries while also ranking second in interceptions amongst the team.
For more than a couple of games this season, the five-foot-seven technical wizard with the tucked-in shirt has put the whole of ATO on his back. In a season that saw a great number of the team spending time on the injury reserve, Bassett has been on the team sheet in every game bar one: a match against Valour, which ended in a disappointing draw. Bassett has five match-winning goals to his name this season, and his game-tying or winning goals account for 17 of ATO’s 33 points.
Bassett was as magnanimous off the pitch this year as he was magnificent on it. Between training on weekdays, Bassett could often be captured on social media giving back to the fans who would be singing his name when matchday rolled around the following weekend.
Case in point for young soccer player Taha, who walked out as a mascot with Ollie early in the season and whose dreams would come true a week later with a surprise visit from the Atléti midfielder. With a moment like that, Ollie Bassett proved he could pull the strings in the midfield and pull on all of our heartstrings a little.
Bassett was not only one of the first names on the team sheet, but one of the first names to volunteer his time to the media and supporters. His list of off-pitch excursions includes CCSG Hotstoves, appearing at meet and greets, as well as frequently being a voice for the club over social media or in the post-game press conferences. There are also some great photos of Bassett petting the good boy on Bruce's Big Night.
No player is a better representation of the ambition, stature, and maturity that this club stands for than Ollie Bassett. You can tell he is Roujiblancos through and through by the fact that his hair has turned red and the way he wears his heart on the sleeve of his tucked-in shirt. For me, the winner of the 2023 CCSG Golden Scarf deserves to be Ollie Bassett.
Ben Ralph is a die-hard football fan and a journalism student at Carleton. He has been supporting Everton through the ups and downs (but mostly the downs) and could not believe his luck when he stumbled across Atlético Ottawa in 2021. Now part of the Atleti faithful, his dream has always been to write football stories, and he is excited to join other fans as writers for CCSG. His football journalist idols are Adam Hurrey, James Richardson, and Charlie Eccleshare from The Football Cliches Podcast.