Roland Bala is living his dream pulling on the blue and gold of Southern United.
The 27-year-old Papua New Guinea international defender moved south a month ago and has already shown himself to be a player to watch.
He impressed in the club’s 2-2 draw against Auckland City in its national football league opener on Saturday and is looking for another big performance against Eastern Suburbs at the Caledonian Ground tomorrow.
He initially arrived in Wellington in April but things had not worked out for him at Team Wellington.
It was recommended he trial for Southern United, which subsequently signed him and allowed him to fulfil a dream.
“I always wanted to play here because it was always my dream to play in the [New Zealand] national league,” he said.
“So when I got told I was going to come down here it was a really big blessing for me and a dream come true.
“Australia, New Zealand, every player in the Pacific, that’s where they’re looking at.”
He had been enjoying his time in Dunedin so far, living with his uncle who has lived in the city for 25 years.
The lifestyle, food and weather was taking some adapting to, although he was beginning to get used to it.
His partner, Jacklyn Lahari, remains at home and plays for the Papua New Guinea national netball team, although she hoped to join him at some point.
Having grown up in Port Moresby, he played in the country’s national football league.
Alongside that, he is a member of the Papua New Guinea national squad and had a three-month stint last year playing on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Last year the national team performed well at the OFC nations cup, going down in a penalty shootout to New Zealand in the final.
While this year’s loss to the Solomon Islands in World Cup qualifying had been disappointing, Bala said football in the nation was making big strides.
He had moved to New Zealand to pursue football opportunities and after initially being hampered by a partially torn ACL, he was making the most of his chance.
The set-up at Southern had impressed him and he was expecting a tough game against Eastern Suburbs, which claimed a 3-1 win over Team Wellington.
“I’ve only heard about them. They’re a really good team, so the team’s got to prepare well for that.
“Hopefully we can bring last week’s performance into this weekend and we have to perform well and get some points.”
Southern had defended well to hold a potent Auckland City team to two goals last week, although Bala said it was still looking to improve on its effort at the back.
Despite that the result was a good one and had acted as a confidence boost.
“[Auckland City are] the benchmark, so it was a confidence booster for the boys.
“We’re just looking to be consistent every week, so hopefully we can take that into this weekend’s game.”