The ‘bru­tal’ side of the beau­ti­ful game

Marlborough Express - - SPORT -

Peter Mas­ters, who owns a car­a­van park. Panzer and fel­low Kiwi Zane Sole got put up in one of those car­a­vans.

‘‘Zane and I have a laugh about it now,’’ Panzer said.

‘‘Ev­ery club has their dif­fer­ent ways of hous­ing their peo­ple. For two Kiwi guys try­ing to crack it in Eng­land, think­ing we might have a chance, we were up for any­thing.’’

Aside from the hous­ing sit­u­a­tion, the foot­ball wasn’t of a very high stan­dard. The club trained twice a week at a level akin to most win­ter league teams in New Zealand, Panzer said.

The one sav­ing grace was hav­ing for­mer All White Rory Fal­lon as a player/as­sis­tant coach. He stayed be­hind to do ex­tra ses­sions with the Kiwi lads, but was sacked in Jan­uary and game­time quickly dis­ap­peared for Panzer.

Panzer puts the ex­pe­ri­ence in the ‘‘char­ac­ter-build­ing’’ cat­e­gory, say­ing it was an eye-opener into the ‘‘bru­tal’’ world of foot­ball.

‘‘It wasn’t de­vel­op­men­tal in terms of foot­ball, but in terms of the other as­pects of learn­ing about the grind and learn­ing about the sys­tem and how pro­fes­sional foot­ball is and the bru­tal world of it, that was how you learned.

‘‘It’s been dif­fi­cult. It’s been a roller­coaster and I’ve learnt a lot. I wasn’t ready at all. I wasn’t ready for pro­fes­sional foot­ball.

‘‘One of the rea­sons was be­cause my univer­sity coaches didn’t re­ally pre­pare me as well as they could’ve, but also I didn’t pre­pare my­self as well as I could’ve.’’

From Truro, he went to Bridges FC in Chicago (he holds both a New Zealand and United States pass­port), which is an or­gan­i­sa­tion that helps de­velop play­ers and pre­pare them for pro­fes­sional foot­ball.

Train­ing twice a day for four months served him well and he earned a spot on their tour­ing squad to Scan­di­navia.

That led to a trial with Nordva¨rm­lands FF in the Swedish Di­vi­sion 2 (fourth-tier), where he played un­til his visa ran out on Oc­to­ber 2. The fol­low­ing week he re­turned to New Zealand to join Team Welling­ton, hav­ing been in con­tact with their coach, Jose Figueira, since Fe­bru­ary about a po­ten­tial move back to New Zealand.

With what he has ex­pe­ri­enced this year, he warned other young Ki­wis to be ready for a hard grind as they pur­sue their pro­fes­sional dream.

‘‘All these young guys in New Zealand, they might be the top of the crop here, but what is that? That’s noth­ing.

‘‘You know, that’s noth­ing against New Zealand at all, but it’s not un­til you go over­seas and try your luck in that en­vi­ron­ment and see what it’s re­ally like ... noth­ing is handed to you. That’s the big­gest thing. Over here, a lot of things are handed to you if you’re good.

‘‘You see with a lot of guys, they kind of get half-breaks over there at a de­cent level, but are you able to sus­tain it and keep going, or are you going to give in to the small­minded, Kiwi men­tal­ity and come back to the small pond and be a big fish?’’

So is that what Panzer is do­ing now, com­ing back to be a big fish?

‘‘That’s not at all what I’m try­ing to do. I’m look­ing to con­tinue to de­velop and grow. I’ve been over­seas and hit a few dead ends and speed bumps with visa is­sues, or a lack of a visa, and a lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

‘‘So to get the chance to come to a place where the coach wants you, he wants to bring you in, he wants you board, that’s very at­trac­tive to any player.

‘‘Also, the men­tal­ity and the way Jose has Team Welling­ton func­tion­ing is some­thing very at­trac­tive. The way he wants us to play this sea­son and the pur­pose be­hind it all is some­thing I haven’t been given the op­por­tu­nity to have over the last two years.’’

Panzer should slot in well as a re­place­ment for Bill Robert­son in Team Welling­ton’s back three this sea­son, should they look to play that way again.

His first test will come this Sun­day when the team takes on Auck­land City in the Char­ity Cup at David Far­ring­ton Park in Welling­ton, which dou­bles as both teams’ first game of the ISPS Handa Premier­ship. The sea­son proper starts with a full round the fol­low­ing week­end.

"It's been a roller­coaster and I've learnt a lot. I wasn't ready at all. I wasn't ready for pro­fes­sional foot­ball." Erik Panzer

PHOTO: ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

New Team Welling­ton foot­ball team sign­ing Erik Panzer has opened up on the bru­tal world of foot­ball.

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