Longo fo­cuses on Can­ter­bury

Marlborough Express - - SPORT - OLIVIA CALD­WELL

Foot­ball Fern An­nalie Longo clocked up 100 caps for her coun­try just last month, but says the mile­stone was never some­thing she set out to achieve when she be­gan her in­ter­na­tional foot­ball ca­reer.

The cen­tral mid­fielder has been a se­nior mem­ber of the Foot­ball Ferns for a while now, and will bring ex­pe­ri­ence to the Can­ter­bury United Pride this sea­son as they look to de­fend their ti­tle in the Na­tional Women’s Foot­ball League.

The 26-year-old de­buted for the Foot­ball Ferns in 2006 and has been a solid starter ever since, but she doesn’t be­lieve 100 matches wear­ing the fern is any­thing to overly cel­e­brate and cred­its the play­ers and coaches around her for her suc­cess.

‘‘I guess when I first be­gan to play, I just wanted to play for my coun­try. It [100 caps] is not some­thing I thought I would achieve or not some­thing I am par­tic­u­lar ex­cited about, you just get on with it.’’

Longo wanted to talk more about the se­ries loss to the USA than on her per­sonal ac­co­lade and said the team were happy with their per­for­mance, de­spite los­ing 5-0 and 3-1.

‘‘I think it was a young side in a build­ing phase. Lots of new play­ers try­ing new things.’’

Longo said the Foot­ball Ferns were pleased with the re­sults against the USA be­cause the squad had made a lot of ad­just­ments off the field and the fu­ture was look­ing bright.

‘‘We have made im­prove­ments off the field around ... build­ing cul­ture. A cul­ture that is di­rect and full of lead­ers, this is not some­thing we have had in the past.’’

She has no plans of hang­ing up the boots. Her next goal is to com­pete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, and com­plete the next cir­cuit with the team.

‘‘That’s the plan. I amjust go­ing to take it year by year, work hard and lift my stan­dards. I will keep play­ing as long as I’m per­form­ing.’’

Can­ter­bury United Pride are not short of ex­pe­ri­ence with five Foot­ball Ferns don­ning the red and black strip to de­fend the ti­tle, start­ing this week­end against WaiBop in Christchurch.

New Zealand in­ter­na­tion­als, goal­keeper Vic­to­ria Es­son, de­fender Meikayla Moore and striker Aimee Phillips, who all re­side in Auck­land as part of the Foot­ball Ferns de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme, are con­firmed in the Pride squad.

‘‘It is nice to come back down here to grass­roots level and to be in­spir­ing kids. Un­for­tu­nately, the young play­ers don’t get to see all that many Foot­ball Ferns,’’ Longo said.

PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT

New Zealand’s An­nalie Longo will bring pro­fes­sion­al­ism to the Can­ter­bury Pride as they look to de­fend their ti­tle.

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