Australian winger Aiden Harvey is eyeing a spot in Sweden’s top flight after breaking through in the Superettan with GAIS.
Harvey, a right midfielder, was born and raised in Melbourne. But the 21-year-old has spent the past 12 years living in Europe, eight of those in Sweden.
Harvey made his first-team football debut for Göteborgs Atlet-och Idrottssällskap, better known as GAIS, as a 19-year-old in the second division 18 months ago. He has gone on to make 23 appearances, including 17 in a breakout 2019 campaign.
An ACL tear suffered last September has slowed down Harvey’s development and left him sidelined. But the Aussie is on the mend and is confident of a return to the pitch in June, with the new Swedish season starting in April.
“I did it in a game, it was Friday the 13th. There was five minutes left in the game,” Harvey told The World Game.
“But in terms of the recovery it’s going well. It’s long but it’s good. I’ll be back playing matches in June.
“I’ve started jogging and doing exercises. Next week I’ll be running on the field, kicking a ball a bit, and keep working.
“Luckily for me we have a really good staff around. So it makes it a lot easier. There’s another player who tore his ACL in the same team two weeks earlier. So we’ve got each other, which makes it a lot better.”
Harvey joined GAIS five years ago and came through the club’s academy. Located in the city of Gothenburg, the 125-year-old Mackerels are one of the oldest and proudest clubs in Sweden.
“It’s really good,” he said.
“We’re in the second tier but GAIS is a really proud club, really historic. They have the best fans.
“But we’ve been struggling with getting back to the top flight. So it’s a club that should be in the top flight, but all the pieces of the puzzle have not aligned yet.
“Football in Sweden is big. Everyone talks about it. Especially being in Gothenburg there’s four teams and everyone has their side they support.
“So if you walk around in your GAIS clothes you will have people who either love you or hate you. Most people know the footballers.”
Harvey grew up in AFL-obsessed Victoria and was a late convert to football. He and his family left Australia more than a decade ago, for his parents’ work, and eventually moved to Sweden after spells living in Germany and England.
“I started playing when I was nine,” he explained.
“I grew up on Auskick, in Melbourne so AFL was dominant. I used to go to the MCG every weekend to watch the Demons.
“I’ve always been active, I always played sports. But first it was Auskick and then we started an indoor soccer team with some friends, just to mess around. That’s when I sort of found I was quite good, because I would score a lot of goals.
“So I went and tried out for a local club, an Italian-influenced team. I played there with the nine-years-old players first, then I got moved into the older group.
“Then we lived in Germany for a year, then we were in England for four years. Then we moved to Sweden and I’ve been here for eight and half years.
“I’ve experienced a lot of different cultures and different languages as well. In Germany I didn’t really play football much, it was only at school during breaks.
“Then in England I trained with Premier Football Coaching, an academy in Manchester. Then we moved down to Hastings so I started to play for Hastings United.
“Then I went to a summer camp, and they picked out some players to go on trials. I was with Chelsea, Tottenham and Fulham. I was about to go to Crystal Palace to trial but we moved to Sweden.
“When I got to Sweden that’s when I started to put my head down and started training a lot, five days a week.”
Harvey says his move to Sweden as a 13-year-old was the catalyst for him becoming a professional footballer.
“I joined a local club but they trained five times a week. I wanted to be the best in that team,” he said.
“When I was 16 I got moved up to the senior team. When I was 17 my coach contacted GAIS. I went and trained with them, and after one training session they wanted to sign me.
“I was in the academy for two years and then I got moved up to the senior team on a three-year contract. I always wanted to be a professional footballer, it’s always been my dream.
“I’ve always been good. My talent is my speed. I’m quick. I didn’t really think much of it. I wanted to become a professional but I didn’t know how at first.
“I’ve been lucky to have coaches who’ve believed in me and play me.”
Harvey might have lived more than half of his life away from Australia, but he still considers himself an Aussie.
And while the 21-year-old is happy in Sweden, and wants to get GAIS back to the top flight, he has ambitions to play elsewhere in Europe one day and eventually in the A-League.
“I still see Australia as my home, my nationality” he said.
“If I was fortunate enough to get offered to play for both countries, I’d chose Australia. Sweden is good, except for now when its winter, it’s really cold.
“In terms of everything else its good, for families and for football, it’s good. Schooling is good. Everything except the weather.
“I really want to play overseas [one day], outside of Sweden. I really want to play in Germany and in Newcastle, and then Australia. I want to finish in Australia.”