Ten years after first kicking a football, Mohammed Naizal has beaten out hundreds of challengers to become the first Fijian selected for the inaugural OFC Education Centre in New Zealand.
“I feel lucky that I’m the only one that got picked,” the 16 year-old enthused.
“I want to thank my coach back home, he’s the one who made me a good player,” he said.
“I also want to thank Fiji Football Association for giving me this opportunity to be here and learning a lot of stuff,” he added.
Naizal is one of six student-athletes from across the region selected to take part in the OFC Education Centre.
The centre sees the group enrol at One Tree Hill College for their education with an intensive OFC football training programme taking place around their schooling.
“My goal is to be a better footballer and to learn more. I want to go back to Fiji and share all the things I’ve learnt here and to make football back home better.”
Naizal is looking forward to being a part of One Tree Hill College, and the cold New Zealand weather has given him first-hand experience in his favourite field of study.
“My favourite subject is geography. I like learning about the weather and climate,” he said while standing in the cold Auckland wind.
With an academic background to provide a foundation for his future, Naizal hopes to reach the top level and play football professionally.
“I love football. When I was small I watched my cousins and brothers playing football so I thought I should try it and when I did it felt good. Then I saw some of the international players like Messi. Back home people say football is not good for your future but I will show them we can make a career through football.”
“My football inspiration is Iosefo Verevou, he’s the best player in Fiji so I hope to follow his footsteps.”
The OFC Education Centre – powered by AIA is a full-time pilot programme being implemented by the Oceania Football Confederation. Its purpose is to empower lives and develop high performance people by linking academic study with football learning led by OFC Education Centre coaching staff. Seven student-athletes from OFC Member Associations have been included in the inaugural intake, and will spend two terms at One Tree Hill College in Auckland, New Zealand.
For more on Fiji football visit fijifootball.com.fj