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Friday, 19 April 2019 12:20 am

Hutt Valley teenagers in football heaven

 
GETTING THEIR KICKS: From left, Sam Pickering, Jono Coulter and Justin Gulley.

GETTING THEIR KICKS: From left, Sam Pickering, Jono Coulter and Justin Gulley.

THREE Hutt Valley High School students this week join thousands of the world’s most talented teenagers at the annual Dallas Football Cup Tournament in the US.

Jono Coulter, Sam Pickering and Justin Gulley are members of the Capital Under-17 squad who will be among 300 international teams at the tournament.

Justin is excited about his first time out of New Zealand while Jono says he is keen to see different places and the players representing famous clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.

The players have had to raise $5000 each for the trip.

To raise the amount, Jono sought sponsorship and help from his parents, who got him into the game at the age of five.

As soon as he tried it he loved it. “Soccer was something I always really had a thing for so I kept going.”

For the last two years Jono has played in the school’s first 11 and he says having support from family and friends is important.

“Your mates have got to be there to help you along. We hope to do well over there. It’s a chance for us to get chosen and do our best.”

Former All Whites coach Mick Waitt will manage the team, which he describes as one of the best he has worked with.

While the boys are excited about experiencing giant theme parks and malls, at the last meeting of the players and parents this week, Mick told the group their main focus is football.

“We’re over there representing the federation so you need to be aware of that and this is setting up for future football teams to go back every year.”

The Capital Football team will play sides from England, Scandinavia, Mexico, Dallas and Los Angeles in its pool.

Also important for the young players will be the hundreds of talent scouts watching the action.

Capital Football director Andy Hedge says going to the tournament is a pathway for the players.

“We see this as a culmination of the years of hard work that these lads have put in and if we can help them get a further four years of education free of charge then that’s really the ultimate goal for us.”

Andy says there is no reason why they can’t go on to professional football in the same way as Ryan Nelson and Simon Elliot used US college scholarships to kick off their careers.

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