Tabla On Ottawa: ‘I Will Carry Those Moments With Me’
Atletico Ottawa announced the surprise sale of fast-footed forward Ballou Tabla last week, with the 23-year-old being sold to Turkish second division side Manisa FK for an undisclosed fee.
Speaking with Radio Canada’s Jonathan Jobin, the Quebecer discussed how his return to Europe came to be and how his time with Atletico Ottawa helped pave the way to his new playing opportunity.
Tabla had already been in Turkey for a few days before the announcement, making his debut over the weekend as a second half substitute in a 1-1 draw against Denizlispor.
Having signed a three-year deal with Atletico Ottawa last season, Ballou’s intent had been to stay even until recently. In fact, he says, the move to Manisa FK only entered as a possibility in the last few weeks, with things progressing quickly.
“I was getting ready to go to camp in Madrid and the discussions started here,” revealed Tabla. “I spoke with my agent and we saw several reasons to come: it’s a return to Europe and the project that has been set up here interests me greatly, as the one in Ottawa had interested me.”
Manisa have ambitions to put together a promotion run, and Ballou likes the serious intent they displayed to him in that regard. Despite currently find themselves eleventh in league standings, they are only ten points separated from second place.
Tabla likes not only their attacking style of play and the speed behind it, but the freedoms the former Barcelona B prospect will be given on the pitch, too.
“My coach saw the role I had in Ottawa. They want to use me the same way, all over the place, whether it’s in the ten, on the left or on the right, even as a second striker,” says Tabla.
His transfer from Atletico Ottawa saw him sign a two-and-a-half year deal with Manisa FK that looks to include a sell-on percentage and is, reportedly, one of the highest-grossing transfers ever seen in the CPL’s young history.
“I’m happy because it allows the league to grow in size and visibility,” says Ballou. “There are players and talent. I am one-hundred percent sure that there will be more players like us. The potential is there, the CPL is still young.”
Ballou’s transfer comes following a season that has seen many players secure moves to Europe, like William Akio (Valour), Victor Loturi (Cavalry), Aribim Pepple (Cavalry), and Marco Bustos (Pacific), among a growing list of others.
For Ballou, the transition wasn’t one he had planned on, but it’s all part of the journey. It’s been a long and winding road for the 23-year-old, who was once pitched as the next Alphonso Davies and had the weight of the Canadian national team put on his shoulders.
While his stint with Barcelona didn’t pan out and CF Montreal eventually let him go, his year with Atletico Ottawa provided a remarkable career resurgence for the young talent. Turkey opens a new door, but beyond that could be another step up the proverbial ladder.
“I want to stay in my mentality of reaching the highest level, but I will settle in well and play my games. You never know in soccer. There is the Turkish first division, but also opportunities elsewhere in Europe.”
Whatever happens next, Ballou Tabla will reflect on his time in the nation’s capital fondly. From the lows of a club record defeat to the highs of scoring the league’s goal of the year and reaching the CPL Final, he appreciates a crowd that had his back from day one.
“They have been there for me and the team all season. They cheered us on even when we were losing 5-0. That’s something I’ve never seen before. I enjoyed playing there again, but I will also carry those moments with me forever. I can’t wait to go back there and greet the club and the fans properly.”
Source: Radio Canada