Despite lack of exposure, determined Kiwis take on Brazil
New Zealand are the other team in the city and are getting a feel of Indian soil at the KJ Somaiya ground, Ghatkopar. The All Whites will play their first practice match against Brazil today at the Mumbai Football Arena, Andheri. The clash, which is a non-ticketed event, promises to be a high-voltage affair. However, for the Oceania Football Confederation giants, more than just qualifying for next month's FIFA U-17 World Cup, the opportunity to rub shoulders with the South American champions will be one to treasure.
New Zealand U-17 head coach Danny Hay (left), Brazil head coach Carlos Amadeu and Kiwi skipper Max Mata (right) at the Mumbai Football Arena, Andheri yesterday. Pic/Noel D'Souza
"We don't get exposed to high level football like other nations. Geographically, we are a little isolated, so the level of competition we have on a regular basis is not that high. We face a lot of financial constraints," New Zealand U-17 head coach Danny Hay said yesterday. Skipper Max Mata too lamented the lack of exposure. "We've only got one professional team in our country. We play in the Australian 'A' league and that's the only exposure we get. Unless we have foreign passports and the opportunity to go overseas, then we could, but it doesn't happen very often, so these are the best opportunities we get. This is the biggest competition in our lives and we're looking to do something great," he said.
Nonetheless, New Zealand have had their share of breakthroughs. In 2009, for the first time in history, an All Whites side reached the knockout stage of a FIFA tournament. In the 2011 World Cup and in the last edition in Chile, they were knocked out by Brazil from the Round-of-16.
'Massive learning curve'
"It was the first time I was involved in a FIFA World Cup as a coach in Chile. It was a massive learning experience. We learnt a lot as a coaching staff. The quality of the opposition, coaching and players is very high," Hay recalled.
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