The difference between club and country has been a noticeable step up for New Zealand attacker Oskar Van Hattum.
Although he’s spent the past year-and-a-half at the Wellington Phoenix Football Academy, linked to the only New Zealand-based professional football club, Van Hattum can see a clear distinction between the football he’s experienced in the capital and his first foray wearing the fern at the OFC U-16 Championship.
“It’s quite a big step up from the club to international football,” the Wellington United striker said.
“It’s quite a big step up from football in Wellington.
“The teams here, they’re giving us a good fight. The Solomon Islands game was a good reminder for us, for the boys, that it’s not going to be easy and we’re going to have to fight for qualification.”
Growing up in New Plymouth, Van Hattum’s football education was with his primary and secondary school teams.
Since joining the Phoenix Academy the football horizon has expanded for the young striker and for the most part, he’s thoroughly enjoying the opportunities it’s opened him up to.
“Solomon Islands is a really nice place, but it’s quite hot,” he laughed.
“Getting off the plane it was quite a shock how hot it was initially, but we’re starting to deal with it a bit better now.”
That Van Hattum and his side are feeling a bit more acclimatised is a good thing given they have one more big match if they want to earn tickets to Peru and the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“My highlight so far was our first game when we beat Vanuatu 8-0. I think that was a highlight for all the boys,” he said.
“We want to go into our next game with the same confidence and hopefully we can pull off a good result.”
Standing in Van Hattum and his teammates way is an equally determined Tahitan side that is just as eager to book those tickets.
“We think Tahiti is good,” Van Hattum stated.
“We’re not taking the semi-final lightly. We’ve had to put in the effort in training the last couple of days so we can go into the game with a good mentality, go there and get the points.”
New Zealand will play Tahiti in the second semi-final at Lawson Tama Stadium on Wednesday 19 September at 3pm (local).