Ex­cit­ing times for young foot­baller

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - By NICKI DAVIDSON

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.

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