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Football Ferns: Young pair soaking it all up

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The United States is a mecca of women’s football and two of the Football Ferns’ youngest members are looking to soak up every moment they spend in the land of the world’s finest female team.

Teenagers Malia Steinmetz and Liz Anton were both among several up-and-coming prospects named by coach Tony Readings as he looked to re-energise his squad with some youthful exuberance and build further depth.

While she is yet to earn a cap, the two-match USA tour is not the first taste of life at senior international level for Steinmetz, who was also part of the Ferns group that competed in the Cyprus Cup last March. But this is a milestone for her U-20 national team mate Anton and she intends to make the most of it, even if adapting to such a professional environment has taken a physical toll.

"The training is a really big step up and it’s been great learning off all the other players, both on and off the field," the centre back says. "But I’m pretty tired after trainings because I’m defending against some really great players."

Midfielder Steinmetz echoes those sentiments but is equally determined to take in all she can during her time in Denver and Cincinnati.

"It makes you tired but it also makes you learn a lot about yourself and what you need to do in the future if you want to get better," she explains. "It really teaches you a lot and it’s great to have the senior players around because I’ve been learning so much off them."

Both were provided with a segue way into international football by the FFDP, New Zealand Football’s innovative female player development programme. Four other members of the current FFDP crop - namely Aimee Phillips, Anna Leat, Victoria Esson and Jane Barnett - have also been called up for the USA tour while two others, CJ Bott and Katie Rood, recently graduated from the programme to take up professional contracts overseas.

As part of the FFDP, those included train up to four times a week in Auckland and play in a local boys’ league during the winter. It’s a concept both Steinmetz and Anton are very much in favour of and believe it has had a big impact on their rapid rate of development.

"I’ve loved being part of it," Steinmetz says. "I think coming up against the boys has been really good for us and it’s made my game so much better personally - I’m now doing everything faster and technically better."

Anton concurs, saying: "The FFDP has really helped me this year because it’s a step up on the normal league and allows you to train with really good players. You’re able to work on things the coaches know you need to work on and they’ll give you help and support with those things so it’s really helped."

The only downside to being part of such an intense programme is the impact on one’s social life but the pair are happy to put football first for the time being as they chase their dream of making a career out of the game they love.

"It’s always been like that with football and it’s gotten even harder as we’ve grown older. But with all the friends we’ve made through football it makes it easier to not be missing out on too much away from football so we’re going to stick with it," says Steinmetz, who is studying for a bachelor of arts at the University of Auckland.

"I’m working on my technical ability, particularly the simple things and trying to get my fitness up so I can maintain 90 minutes at international level. I’m hoping to learn so much more about the game and how to play simple footy and learning off all the girls around me."

Anton is likewise at university, working towards a bachelor of science and chemistry, and says she will receive a real footballing education even if she doesn’t make it onto the pitch at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday afternoon (NZT).

"Even just watching the game will be amazing because we’re playing the best team in the world and it will be cool to see how we do," she says. "And if I get the chance to go on then that will be extraordinary."

Please find attached audio from interviews with Football Ferns defender Liz Anton and midfielder Malia Steinmetz.

Football Ferns Tour of USA

USA vs Football Ferns

Saturday 16 September, 2pm (NZT)

Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

Denver, Colorado

USA vs Football Ferns

Wednesday 20 September, 12pm (NZT)

Nippert Stadium

Cincinnati, Ohio

New Zealand: 1. Erin Nayler (GK), 2. Ria Percival, 3. Anna Green, 4. CJ Bott, 5. Meikayla Moore, 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley, 8. Daisy Cleverley, 10. Annalie Longo, 11. Kirsty Yallop, 12. Betsy Hassett, 13. Rosie White, 14. Katie Bowen, 15. Martine Puketapu, 16. Olivia Chance, 17. Hannah Wilkinson, 18. Aimee Phillips, 20. Malia Steinmetz, 21. Anna Leat (GK), 22. Katie Rood, 23. Victoria Esson (GK), 25. Liz Anton, 26. Jane Barnett

Coach: Tony Readings

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