Saturday 19 November 2016, 09:33

A Kiwi midfielder and her No1 fan

Young players starting out in the game often draw initial inspiration from their parents. New Zealand midfielder Daisy Cleverley certainly has done, and continues to do so to the present day.

Her father, Bart - a dyed-in-the-wool football man – has travelled around the world to see his daughter perform on numerous elite stages. Although for once, New Zealand players and supporters enjoyed a short trip, this time just a couple of hours north to Papua New Guinea for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

This story commenced some 15 or so years ago on the green fields of suburban Auckland with a pocket-sized girl donning an oversized shirt and shin pads. Fast forward to the present day and Daisy Cleverley’s football odyssey has taken her to an incredible five FIFA tournaments, including last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™, all by the age of 19. Bart, incidentally, has been to all five. sat down with Daisy and Bart to hear the back-story of a young player’s journey to the top, as well as New Zealand’s experiences at Papua New Guinea 2016. There must have been a buzz around the squad after the last-minute winner over Ghana in the first match? Daisy: It was fun after the game, lots of singing and dancing. We were hugely excited to win our first game and be top of the pool, which might be a first for us. One to screenshot there!

What was the reaction when you heard about last Monday’s earthquake in New Zealand, and was it distracting for the team? Daisy:One of the girls was from the area (near the epicentre), and we didn’t want to tell her. We were in shock, but everyone was glad that everyone was ok. Some of our family in Wellington got evacuated to the hill in the middle of the night because of the tsunami warning.

Going back way further now, Bart were you keen to see Daisy play football? Bart: Actually it was the other way around. Even at five she was out in the dark kicking a ball. We went to the local club and went from there.

Do you remember Daisy’s first game? Bart: Yes, because I was the coach! Daisy played football with the boys. I remember the first game Daisy was just standing there, and I had never shown her anything, but suddenly she took the ball and went through and scored. She played boys’ football until 12. Myer Bevan was in the team all the way through and he went on to now play for New Zealand U-20s. Daisy was pretty much the only girl in the entire competition. It was a cool time because they were a great little team, and I was the coach (laughs).

A parent on the other team said ‘there is a girl in the other team, we are going to thrash them’. It ended up being the other way around!

Have you learnt from your dad down the years Daisy, and do you have any shared football passion? Daisy: I’m still learning from him. He is constantly telling me things. After the game the first thing he will say is that ‘I should get on the ball more,’ or whatever. I don’t like it, at times I’m like ‘just go away’, but it obviously helps. He is my No1 supporter. Bart: We always like to work on passing and triangles, that kind of thing. I like Barcelona but Daisy doesn’t watch that much football.

Did Daisy ever verbalise what she wanted to achieve in football when she was young? Bart: Not really, Daisy has always been very competitive in a quiet way. She is always in a good position, getting behind the ball and that is that competitive thing of not wanting to lose. Daisy: A memorable moment from me, and I remember it really clearly, was when I was about nine. We went down the park and you (Dad) saying ‘Marta has just won the best women’s player in the world’, and I thought that was amazing, and I thought ‘you know what maybe I can do that ’, so that was a real moment.

Any unusual memories from those days? Bart:When we played there would be fields and fields of boys, and then there would be Daisy. I recall one time the coach on the other team saying ‘get her, she is only a girl’. And a parent on the other team saying ‘there is a girl in the other team, we are going to thrash them’. It ended up being the other way around!