“We had loads of friends and family come round to our house,” Bolasie told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “It was a good day actually. It was a good little party. I’ve got a little girl on the way in December, so that’ll be interesting!”
The flying winger recently signed a three-year deal with Palace, with Bolasie himself admitting “there were a couple of clubs interested” in the summer. “I got told I wasn’t for sale,” he added. Current manager, Neil Warnock, has made him a key part of his first team plans, and the 25-year-old's future at Selhurst Park looks secure. But long-term planning and security is not a key theme in Bolasie’s career. Born in Lyon, France to parents from Congo DR, he moved to England at a young age and found a circuitous route to the top flight of English football, beginning in Malta with Floriana at the age of 18.
From Malta, he moved to Plymouth Argyle and Bristol City in England’s lower divisions before ending up at Palace, who at that time - in August 2012 - were bottom of the English second tier. A remarkable run of form then saw the club promoted to the Premier League at the end of his first season at Selhurst Park, while Bolasie's performances caught the eye of scouts from the country of his parents’ birth. He turned down the opportunity to represent Congo DR at the 2013 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, but made his debut in a 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifier against Libya. Heading out to Kinshasa was, he says, an emotional experience.
“It really touched my heart,” Bolasie said. “That was the first time I actually had ever seen the place in the open. It brought me back down to earth really, because you see a lot of people struggling. It’s a different lifestyle to the way I live in England.”
The Champions League is definitely the ambition for me. I want a taste of that one day.
He has gone on to become an integral part of the Congo DR setup, sharing a close relationship with other England-based players Gabriel Zakuani and Youssouf Mulumbu. Bolasie played in both of his country’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers last month, a defeat to Cameroon and a win in Sierra Leone. Next week, they face a stern challenge, a double-header against continental heavyweights Côte d’Ivoire, but the 25-year-old thinks his side can reach Morocco in January.
“It’s going to be a tough test, but I’m really looking forward to it,” Bolasie said. “Obviously the players down there (in Côte d’Ivoire), they’re all stars for myself and in the Premier League. I’m going to try and prove a point. As a team, we’ll be alright. We’ve got some players they don’t know about so it’s going to be a good game I think.
“We’ve got [Cedrick] Mabwati who plays in Spain [for Osasuna] and [Jeremy] Bokila who plays in Russia [for Terek Grozny], so it’s a good team coming through. I guess we’ll be looking forward to what we can do as individuals, and as a team. Last time the team [qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations] in South Africa, we drew three games against strong opponents. That gave a lot of confidence and morale."
Despite playing in the top flight of English football, Bolasie himself is something of an unknown quantity on the international scene. But his unpredictability is beginning to make headlines. Warnock recently said that Bolasie “doesn't know what he's going to do next, so the defenders have got no chance”. How would the winger describe his own style of play?
“I’d like to think I make myself a handful and a problem for any full-back that comes up against me with my pace, trickery and strength,” Bolasie said. “Now I’m going to add goals to my game. That’s the main thing for me on a personal note this season.”
The Palace No7 is certainly trying to keep that personal promise, scoring his side’s third against Everton in a crucial win at Goodison Park last month. Any goals from the winger will certainly be a bonus to the team, with Bolasie admitting that Palace face a tough season ahead.
“They say the second season in the Premier League is the hardest one to stay up, so the boys would want to prove that we can do that and go again from there.”
He might be settled and happy at the moment, with baby number two on the way and the ink drying on his three year Palace deal. But Bolasie believes that, when it comes to his own career, the sky is the limit.
“As a player, I want to be playing at the highest level I can,” he said. “It’s not me signing a three year contract and stopping there. I want to kick on to another level again. I definitely want to play in the Champions League and World Cup. The World Cup might be a little tougher because, as a country, we need to grow. But the Champions League is definitely the ambition for me. I want a taste of that one day.”