Thursday 13 June 2019, 23:11

New Zealand's 11-month-old squad member

  • 11-month-old Molly is New Zealand's unofficial World Cup mascot

  • Molly is the daughter of team doctor, Alyse Cameron

  • Full of personality, Molly has been with the Football Ferns for the past five months

By Brendan Bradford with New Zealand

The most popular member of the Football Ferns’ touring party won’t remember any of what happens at the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ this month and she can’t kick a football yet.

In fact, she’s only just started walking.

But Molly, the 11-month-old daughter of the side’s doctor Alyse Cameron, is arguably the most important member of the squad.

Described as the glue that holds the side together, the bubbly baby took her first steps in Le Havre earlier this week and has been in camp since the squad assembled in the US a month ago.

“This is her third tour so far so she’s a pretty seasoned little traveller,” Cameron told FIFA.

“She’s got more stamps on her passport than I did by the time I was 30.”

It might not be the most common set-up but for coach Tom Sermanni, having Molly along for the tournament was a no-brainer.

“For me it’s just natural – it’s the modern-day workplace,” said Sermanni.

“We’ve got a fantastic doctor and the fact that she’s willing to take her young one around the world for us is a huge bonus. There’s so many pluses about it.”

It helps that Molly is one of the most laid-back babies you’ll ever meet but Cameron is mindful that the team has a job to do first and foremost.

“She has blown me away with how well she’s gone with everything: from the long-haul flights to the bus trips,” Cameron said.

“In saying that, she’s got 23 babysitters out here as well. They all dote after her and have loved having her around.

“I’m lucky that the girls have been so accepting but I do try and keep it at a minimum. She’s just there for breakfast and lunch, that’s generally when they see her. Gamedays I keep her well away but when she is there, you do see her lift the girls – they just love it.”

Football Ferns veteran Annalie Longo agrees, saying that having Molly around is a great distraction from the pressures of professional football.

“It’s pretty special: you can just switch off and forget about football and the stress of the high-performance environment,” Longo said.

“She’s a breath of fresh air and that smile when you walk in and see her is nice.”

Cameron, Sermanni and Longo all give credit to the New Zealand Football Federation for allowing Molly to go on tour, with the coach marvelling at how fast she’s developing.

“It’s amazing to see her grow from the baby that couldn’t do anything in New Caledonia six months ago, to somebody who’s walking and interacting,” Sermanni said.

“Even over the last four weeks, I’ve found it fascinating the growth and development and the way that she picks things up.

“It’s just been great.”