Exciting times for young footballer
Broken bones, a physio on speed dial and travelling to Auckland four times a week for training will be a distant memory if Matamata’s Oliver Wright lines up for the New Zealand football team at next year’s U17 World Cup.
The 16-year-old right or centre back is well on his way having already been selected for the 33-man New Zealand training squad for the Oceania World Cup qualifiers to be held in Auckland in January and he says it has been a full-on experience so far.
‘‘It’s the most intense training I’ve ever done because you are always fighting for your spot,’’ he said.
‘‘You are working hard the whole time because there are four guys wanting the same position; there is no relaxing.’’
So far the squad training sessions at North Harbour Stadium have covered general fitness, bulking up and speed but a focused summer training camp begins in December.
They get a three-day break over Christmas after which the squad will be cut to 20 for the qualifiers which run from January 8 to 19.
Then it’s all about overcoming the competition.
‘‘ The team plays three games against Vanuatu, Fiji and American Samoa with two days off in between,’’ he said.
‘‘We have to finish top of our group, then hopefully get into the final. Tahiti are on the other side of the draw and they are the strongest competition,’’ Wright said.
With direct entry to Mexico in June on the line, no team will be lacking the will to win.
‘‘The World Cup would be such a good experience – you are treated like a professional, playing against the best countries in the world,’’ he said.
‘‘At the last one in Nigeria, New Zealand made it into the second round, but [coach] Steve Cain says the team goal for 2011 is to do even better and make it to the final 16.’’
Not to mention that high performing teams garner the interest of agents and scouts looking for the next up and coming football star.
‘‘It could be a stepping stone – there are opportunities to pick up overseas contracts or football scholarships too.’’
‘‘It’s an exciting time to be playing football,’’ he said.