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London frustration pushing Bowen

She would get off the team bus and find that seat in the cavernous arena of Millennium Stadium or storied surrounds of St James’ Park to look down at the pitch while her Football Ferns teammates laced their boots, stepped over the white line and preceded to notch their best performance to date in a FIFA event.
Bowen was named as one of four alternate athletes for the Football Ferns squad for London 2012 and with Olympic regulations only allowing a smaller squad of 18 players for the tournament – as opposed to 23 for a FIFA Women’s World Cup – management opted to take those four reserves to the UK to boost training sessions and be on call should injury strike.
It was a bittersweet trip for Bowen, who only a year earlier had forced her way into the starting eleven for all three of New Zealand’s matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany as a 17 year old with just a handful of previous senior caps.
Missing the cut for 2012 was tough to take.
“It was pretty upsetting to be honest,” Bowen reflects now with the relative wisdom of a 21 year old with 30 A internationals under her belt.
“Most would think it was a great experience and obviously it’s cool to be at the Olympics and seeing the girls play. But being so close and yet so far was really hard.
“You’re on the fringes in many ways. You have to get off the bus before the team does – all that sort of stuff makes you feel like an outsider despite the team being really inclusive. Essentially you’re not really part of the squad because you can’t play.”
But that setback has steeled the midfielder’s determination to be an integral part of Tony Readings’ plans for the XXXI Olympiad.
“That’s been a big driver for me and this Olympic campaign is that I don’t want to be in that position again watching from the stands.
“Although it was awesome to be in London and see some events and things like that. It was a difficult time but that has served to motivate me even more.”
Bowen has slowly but surely edged her way into the core of the New Zealand set up with her ability to cover fullback adding a string to her bow. The odds look good for the former age-group player completing the full set of FIFA women’s events (U-17, U-20, Olympic Games and World Cup), like Annalie Longo and Rosie White have done before her.
She was a starter in Lae on Saturday as the Ferns notched a 7-1 win to essentially seal Olympic qualification. That was later rubber-stamped as Papua New Guinea’s withdrew from the return leg in Auckland.
“I feel secure in my role to an extent,” she says, “but it’s a very competitive sport and there is always new talent coming through, so you’ve got to be aware of that and as soon as you get a big head that’s when you have your biggest downfalls.
“I feel like I’ve secured my spot and put in the hard yards to be where I am now but I’m always conscious that anything can happen and not to take anything for granted – to make the most of any minutes I get and opportunities on the training pitch.”
Bowen says the aims of the current New Zealand side see them looking more globally to benchmark their performances.
“We have girls playing all over the World and when it comes down to it we are capable of being a top 10 team.
“To win a gold medal or a World Cup we have to beat those teams. So in our environment we look to the best players in those other teams – not to look up to them but as competition. We know that if we’re going head to head with them every day and trying to beat their standards we’re only bettering ourselves and bettering the Football Ferns. At the end of the day we have to be better than them if we are going to succeed.”
Bowen’s career charts a new course this year having been drafted by National Women’s Soccer League champions FC Kansas City after graduating from the University of North Carolina. She’ll count the likes of World Cup winners Heather O’Reilly, Sydney Leroux and Becky Sauerbrunn among her teammates.
“Getting drafted was a huge achievement for me. I thought I’d had a pretty decent career at UNC. I thought I’d enter the draft and see how it goes.
“I’m absolutely stoked that Kansa picked me as they are back to back champions They have players who won the World Cup with the USA so being able to play with those players day in and day out is only going to take my game to a new level.”
Taking their game to new levels is key to the Ferns’ Olympic ambition.

 

 

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