Oliver’s keep­ing the goal safe

Central Leader - - SPORT - By ALAS­TAIR LYNN

Play­ing keeper can be a pun­ish­ing po­si­tion but it’s some­thing Oliver Sail rel­ishes.

The 19-year-old goal-sav­ing ma­chine has cast aside the nerves in prepa­ra­tion for the open­ing match of the Fifa Un­der-20 World Cup on May 30.

New Zealand face Ukraine at North Har­bour Sta­dium and Sail is back­ing his side to stand tall.

‘‘Sheer de­sire to not lose and win is some­thing that drives us,’’ he says.

‘‘The never-say-die Kiwi tude is quite pow­er­ful.’’

The for­mer Mt Al­bert Gram­mar School stu­dent is ex­cited to see what the tour­na­ment will bring.

‘‘It’s hard to come to grips with the fact that there’s go­ing to be mil­lions of peo­ple watch­ing us on our home pitch.

‘‘The fact that we get to play in front of of our fans, coun­try, fam­i­lies and friends – that’s huge.

‘‘It’s just go­ing to raise the pro­file of foot­ball in New Zealand.’’

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Pro­tect­ing New Zealand’s goal is a mission he makes his own.

‘‘If mis­takes are made, the pun­ish­ment is harsh,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s quite a de­mand­ing po­si­tion, maybe not phys­i­cally, but men­tally.

‘‘There’s quite a bit of lead­er­ship which I like . . . it’s just the fact that you’re spe­cial in your own right to the other 21 play­ers on the field.’’ Sail grew up in Ep­som and at­tended Re­muera Pri­mary School.

Bounc­ing be­tween a few dif­fer­ent schools, Sail al­ways stayed loyal to his Cen­tral United club.

Strong fam­ily roots in rugby spurred him to dab­ble in the sport for a few years, but the pas­sion for foot­ball proved to be too strong.

Sail has been mak­ing his mark on the New Zealand foot­ball scene in both Auck­land and Welling­ton.

Af­ter sev­eral years play­ing with Auck­land City FC, a move to Welling­ton re­sulted in a two-year con­tract with the Phoenix first team squad.

The call up has been a ive’’ achieve­ment for Sail.

‘‘Ev­ery kid wants to be the he­roes they see on TV and it’s a real priv­i­lege for me.

‘‘I’ve been train­ing with the first team and work­ing with some fan­tas­tic keep­ers.

With his sights firmly set on the Euro­pean leagues, this could be the be­gin­ning of a long ca­reer.

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Photo: SHANE WENZLICK/PHOTOSPORT

Ju­nior All Whites keeper Oliver Sail.

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