THE YEAR THAT

Foot­ball player Myer Be­van, 20, on that feel­ing when you get picked for a na­tional team

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Myer Be­van

It was the mid­dle of 2016 when the chance to trial for the Nike Academy in Eng­land came up. I’d been play­ing se­nior foot­ball for West­ern Springs, but I’d never been in a na­tional team. I’d never been se­lected for any big things like that. The club cap­tain, Liam Mul­rooney, had been a se­lec­tor and told me it was all about how you play on the day — but I didn’t re­ally be­lieve him.

I ap­plied for it late and had a trial in New Zealand, with about 200 other boys. It was so cool to be there. Even if I didn’t win the ex­pe­ri­ence was awe­some.

But I got through and got to go to France. I re­mem­ber all the boys com­ing in with their bravado. It was a bit crazy for the first few days, then we set­tled down and played games.

I al­ways thought to my­self: what if it does hap­pen, if I make it and have to move away from home? I didn’t re­ally know what I’d do.

Then it was the an­nounce­ment. We all sat in this room and they told us it was the best year of tal­ent they’d had, so they were go­ing to bring in12 new play­ers in­stead of the usual five. I saw ev­ery­one’s face light up.

They chose an Aussie boy sec­ond and I was so happy for him. Then the guy on the other side of me went up fourth. They kept call­ing names, and when it got to six or seven ev­ery­one who was left started to freak out.

I was called ninth. I stood up there in the lights hold­ing the new jer­sey I was go­ing to be wear­ing. I couldn’t be­lieve it, re­ally.

But I moved over to Eng­land and it was the dream. I was scor­ing goals and do­ing well.

I came home to New Zealand for Christ­mas and New Year, but when I went back to Eng­land I couldn’t get through Cus­toms. I was sup­posed to be go­ing back for a year, but they told me the visa I had was no longer any good be­cause of Brexit.

They took my bags and phone and I was left in a tiny room look­ing at a blank wall for about six hours, drink­ing wa­ter and freak­ing out. The peo­ple who had come to meet me gave up and left.

Even­tu­ally they called up the guy who ran border se­cu­rity. He said they would let me in, but once I went out again, I would have to stay out for a year.

And when I got to the academy they told me I wouldn’t be able to sign with a team in Eng­land. I thought it had all been a waste of time. Why bring me over if I couldn’t have it any­way? I was gut­ted and went into a shell.

But I de­cided to make the most of it and do as well as I could un­til the Un­der-20 World Cup. I’d done so well at the Academy I’d been se­lected for the New Zealand team, and I stuck it out un­til then. And then I had a call from the White Caps in Van­cou­ver want­ing me to play for them. I tri­alled and got into the team. All I’d ever wanted was to get a con­tract and play for a liv­ing. I couldn’t be­lieve all that hap­pened in the space of a year. As told to Paul Lit­tle.

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