Wednesday 26 October 2016, 07:41

Pereira leads NZ’s young veterans

New Zealand’s Jasmine Pereira’s career path seemingly could have gone down any number of avenues if her gene pool is any gauge. Dad Joseph was a Rugby League player in Australia’s premier competition, while cousins Joe and Rene Naufahu are well-known New Zealand actors – the former featuring in the most recent series of blockbuster TV show Game of Thrones.

“They always try to lure me in and help them with their lines, but it (acting) is definitely not (an ambition), so I think I will stick to football,” Pereira tells with a laugh. “But yes, I have helped my cousins with their lines and been an extra in their movies, which is very cool, but nothing serious.”

Whichever way you look at it Pereira has forged a very successful life in football. A powerfully built and aggressive forward of Samoan extraction, Pereira is on the verge of featuring at a fifth global tournament – all before her 21st birthday. Next month’s trip to Papua New Guinea for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup follows on from Pereira’s visit to Canada for the same tournament two years ago, adding to a bulging resume that also includes the recent Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ and 2012 U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Local familiarity New Zealand will arrive in Papua New Guinea boasting a rare amount of experience for a U-20 team. Pereira is one of four senior internationals with Meikayla Moore, Daisy Cleverley and Paige Satchell completing the quartet. Each of them travelled to Brazil for the Rio Olympic Games in August, though the latter two were alternative players. If that is not enough know-how, the Junior Football Ferns’ squad also includes Hannah Blake, Grace Jale and Nadia Olla who have barely had time to unpack their bags after featuring at the recent FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan. Blake, in particular, will be high on confidence after netting a hat-trick in the 5-0 win over the hosts.

The fact that New Zealand will be playing a tournament within Oceania is another added bonus for the Kiwis. For once travel will be minimal and conditions reasonably familiar following qualifiers in Tonga, while Pereira has previously travelled to Papua New Guinea with the senior national team.

“It will be a little bit of a bonus for us, and it will be good for us to know what to expect in that sense,” said Pereira, or Jaz as she is ubiquitously known within the football fraternity. “It’s also close to home, whereas most of the time we are travelling 36 hours plus to get somewhere, but this time we are a few hours away which is nice.”

New Zealand won through to the U-20 Women’s World Cup knockout stage for the first time at Canada 2014 on the back of two wins in the group stage – a new high for the team in their fifth appearance at the tournament. Repeating that success next month in Melanesia will, however, be a major challenge after New Zealand were grouped alongside 2012 winners USA, European powerhouse France and African contenders Ghana.

Youthful experience But Pereira like many of her team-mates will not have a fear of the unknown, given the significant amount of tournament experience they collectively have. “There are some elements (of going to a World Cup) that I feel I have been in that position before,” said Pereira, who works as a personal trainer, having put study towards a psychology degree on hold for the moment. “But of course every World Cup and country is a little bit different.

“It’s quite cool to know that a lot of the girls are quite experienced, and understand and know where we are heading. Knowing how big a World Cup is and how different it is to normal international games. We feed off each other at training quite a lot. It’s quite cool to know a lot of girls have experienced it already, and we have that belief in each other.”

And how does it feel to be a senior figure in a group of young players? “Maybe being an older player you are able to read and see the game slightly differently,” Pereira said. “It’s really exciting to be able to share my experience with the girls.”