Olympic dream for Football Ferns
Football Ferns Merissa Smith and Anna Green have several things in common.
They’re both 17, play for Three Kings United and will represent New Zealand at the Beijing Olympic Games, which begin on Friday.
Merissa says it was a “pretty exciting” moment when she found out she’d been selected for the team.
“I was relieved to know I made it. I told my mum and she started screaming and dancing.”
The goal-scoring forward says Olympic champs the United States will be the side’s toughest competition.
But they have formulated plans for each team they will face along the way.
“We tend to look at individual teams and players and how we can hurt them,” she says.
“You go out there, play your best and anything can happen.”
Anna, who is one of the side’s defenders, says the Football Ferns have a chance of upsetting the other two teams in their pool, Norway and Japan.
“I think we can go there and do well. Trying to win at least one game is completely achievable.”
Both girls will have to contend with temperatures of up to 40 degrees at the games.
But it’s something they’re used to after travelling to China with age-group teams in recent years.
“We’ll have ice-vests to put on at halftime and will be drinking lots of liquids,” Anna says.
The teammates can be sure of plenty of support with their friends promising to be in front of the TV cheering them on throughout their campaign.
“People at school think it’s amazing,” Merissa says.
Three Kings coach Andrew Clay says both his players have overcome the odds to make it to Beijing.
He says Anna, who moved to Auckland from Palmerston North earlier this year to play football, has settled in well to the team and as a boarder at Epsom Girls Grammar.
“She’s got herself really fit and has a great attitude.
“Merissa has also done well to battle back from glandular fever. She’s a real speed merchant.”
He says the club is pleased Merissa, Anna and defender Kristy Hill made the squad, but feels fellow Three Kings players Annalie Longo and Betsy Hassett were unlucky not to be picked.
The Football Ferns play their first group game against the US on August 12.
Olympic adventure: Football Ferns Merissa Smith, left, and Anna Green are determined to do New Zealand proud in Beijing.