The Under 17 Football Ferns should win the team of the year at the Halbergs, according to a number of high profile sportswomen.
Football Ferns forward Sarah Gregorius says the U17’s success at the Fifa World Cup has put New Zealand on the map. “There hasn’t been a bigger statement on the world stage,” she says.
The team came third in the competition, the highest any New Zealand football team has placed at a Fifa event.
“It’s such a massive achievement and one we potentially might not see again for a while,” Gregorius says.
The U17 were named alongside the Black Ferns and All Blacks Sevens, the NZ Kayaking team and the Black Sticks, all of whom either won or placed highly on the world stage in 2018. But Gregorius says we are used to seeing these teams succeed regularly.
“To see a football team finish third at a global event… this could be the highest achievement ever and I hope it gets celebrated,” she says. “And they get recognised for the outstanding and quite unbelievable achievement that it is.”
International wind surfer turned sports administrator Barbara Kendall, who recently celebrated another success by being named as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport, says the U17s embodied what sport should be about both on and off the field.
“They are a talented, special bunch [and] results reflected that,” Kendall says. “[There’s a] new generation with an incredible awareness of themselves and the world and what they want and what’s right.
“[They are] empowered, but values driven and respectful… the team epitomises that.”
Sports psychologist Karen Nimmo says the team’s success was such a “feel good story” that lifted the nation up.
“The sheer joy… we don’t see enough of it and we don’t often get behind it,” Nimmo says. “In New Zealand we need to step right up [and] celebrate genuine achievement.”
Gregorius does question whether the conversation would be different if it was the U17 men’s team. “Not just [about] the Halbergs, but how the group would be treated beyond that,” she says. “I’m crossing my fingers that with this bubble of talent its nurtured. This is potentially a team that ends up in the world cup final at the 2027 World Cup
“It’s an interesting … exercise to ask ‘what if the gender was different what would be going on here?’. But I would hope, whether male or female, they would walk away with deserved awards and accolades.“