Roar youngster Zabala stakes claim in unfamiliar territory

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Louis Zabala made his A-League Men’s debut for the Brisbane Roar at the start of 2022, and he is striving to prosper in an unfamiliar position on the pitch.

The 21-year-old was called up to the ALM side from the Roar’s youth squad at the beginning of 2022, amidst a lack of available senior players due to injury and COVID layoffs.

“It was actually quite a coincidence,” Zabala said.

“The whole preseason I was training with the first team as a midfielder and then over that Christmas/New Year period we had a lot of COVID cases and no fit right-backs.”

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Despite traditionally being a midfielder, Zaballa has played the majority of his ALM minutes in the right-back slot.

“We needed someone to play right-back and Warren [Moon] had a chat with me,” he said.

“[Moon] said, ‘Look, we need you to do a job. There’s no pressure, and I know you’ve never played there before, but I think you can do a job for us’.”

Although it was an unfamiliar role, Zabala has worked his hardest, both during training and games, to cement a place at the ALM level.

Proving his worth to his team and coach was a big point for Zabala, as he strived to become a consistent fixture in the Roar’s squad.

“I think at the moment it is just about every time that I go into the pitch, whether that is for 10 minutes or starting a match or anything, just to prove that I belong,” he said.

“And try and do my best, both individually and for the team, and I think that’s the best way to go about it, to prove that I belong at this level.”

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Zabala will remain grounded, and enjoying his time in the Roar camp, as much as possible.

“My goal is just to play as much as I can and contribute as much as I can to the team while also just trying to surround myself with the group, ” he said.

Since his introduction to the team at the beginning of 2022 Zabala has featured in six out of eight of Moon’s match-day squads, playing 221 minutes in the process.

“I think I’ve played well and at the moment for me,” the defender said.

“It’s a little bit unfamiliar, but I’m learning all the time and I’m just happy to be playing. Honestly the more minutes that I can get is only going to be beneficial for me.”

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When asked if his coach had any expectations for him, Zabala was quick to note that all he could do was his best every time he stepped onto the pitch.

“When I come in, and when I get an opportunity now, it’s up to me to take it and contribute as much as I can to the team,” he said.

“At the end of the day he’s gonna make the decision that he thinks is best for the team.”

The call up to the ALM squad was the culmination of an arduous process for the product from Ayr in North Queensland.

“It’s been a long road, a long journey and a lot of hard work and that was a great achievement for me, it’s something I’m extremely proud of,” he said.

The Roar have had an arduous campaign, currently sitting 12th on the A-League Men’s ladder, but Zabala believes the squad has plenty more to give.

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Despite their placing, the Roar have looked good at home and it was on the road where Brisbane have struggled all season.

“Obviously, at the moment, we find ourselves in a position that we’re not extremely happy with. A lot of results that, maybe, haven’t gone our way, but I think it’s just about sticking together and trying to grind out a result,” he said.

“We’ve been good at home so hopefully it’s just about continuing to be good at home and then try and find some form away from home then just string together back-to-back wins because at the moment, that’s what we’re struggling with and it is letting us down.”

The Roar will travel to Melbourne Victory on Monday evening, and it will be a chance for the squad and Zabala to pick up some all-important points away from home.

Feature image credit: Brisbane Roar FC

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Bill Hedley
Bill Hedley
Journalism under graduate at the University of Queensland. I have been a die-hard football player and fan for the past 16 years and am now a passionate multimedia Journalist, covering Brisbane Roar for the 2021/22 A-League season.

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