St Peter’s College pupil Dan Nelson will take the first step to kick off his professional football career next year.
The 14-year-old has been selected to take part in the Wellington Phoenix Football Club Academy, which prepares young players to play for the club in the Australian A League.
He will attend St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, board at the school’s hostel and train with the club after school.
Dan said it was a ‘‘big’’ opportunity to join the only professional football club in the country.
‘‘If you’re in their academy then you play and train, and then if you keep playing well you go to the first team eventually.
‘‘It’s pretty difficult to get in, so it’s quite cool.’’
The academy was a good starting point to ‘‘get on the road to being a professional’’, he said.
He had always wanted to be a professional footballer.
‘‘That’s the dream.’’
Ideally, he would start at the Phoenix and possibly play for English club Everton.
‘‘I’ve supported them since forever.’’
Playing for the All Whites was another goal.
He was left-footed, which gave him an advantage because opposition players tended to play the ball to the left side of players, thinking it was their weaker side.
Left wing was his favourite position.
‘‘You score the goals and make the goals.’’
However, he also played in the centre mid-field and at left back.
Football wasa good game because anyone could play it, he said.
He spent about two hours a day practising his ball control skills and shooting goals.
In the past season, he played for the Southland United under-15 team that played in the Dunedin competition.
He was one of two Southern United players to be identified as an under-17 All Whites player of interest.
Dan also excelled academically, being the top St Peter’s College year 9 pupil last year.
Mataura Licensing Trust board members approved a grant of $3600 to go towards the academy’s fees at its November meeting.
He was very grateful for the support of the trust, Dan said.
At the meeting, board president Horace McAuley said Dan was similar to other young people the trust had helped in their sporting careers.
‘‘You put your hand on your heart and this is what we’re here for.
‘‘Here’s a golden opportunity for a young guy.
‘‘He’s enthusiastic and he’s committed.’’