Olympic dream for Foot­ball Ferns

Central Leader - - News - By Scott Morgan

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.

Photo: FIONA GOODALL

Olympic ad­ven­ture: Foot­ball Ferns Merissa Smith, left, and Anna Green are de­ter­mined to do New Zealand proud in Bei­jing.

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