Soccer: Overseas sojourn whets Xavier's appetite

By Ben Guild

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An up-and-coming young Tauranga footballer is facing the grim reality of returning to secondary school after hobnobbing with New Zealand's only player currently plying his trade in the English Premier League.

Year 13 St Peter's student Xavier Pratt, who has previously played for Otumoetai College and Tauranga City, met West Ham United defender Winston Reid during a trip to the United Kingdom as part of the most successful under-19 side to ever leave these shores.

"I'm not a West Ham fan but I support Winston, so it was great," said Pratt. "He is doing well representing our country.

"We saw the home and away changing rooms and where they are before the games and after.

"He was pretty relaxed and didn't really talk much.

"He was just humble."

The meeting came during the Danny Hay-coached side's three-week tour of the UK and the Republic of Ireland during which the New Zealand side only lost once.

A 2-1 loss to Ireland was the sole low point on a tour that included wins over Northern Ireland (2-0) and Wales (2-1), and 1-1 draws with Scotland and England.

Pratt loved every moment of his time wearing the silver fern.

"It was a great feeling standing there and singing the national anthem. It was pretty cool, you never think it will happen to you, but I've been working for it hard for basically my whole life.

"I think the standard here is pretty high, but after seeing what it's like in England. Everything is football there. It's all completely different, people leave school to play football, whereas here it is about getting education first and then play football if you can. Over there it is just football, football."

Pratt's aim is to head overseas again in a bid to go as far with his football as possible.

"I think for most people the aim is to go overseas because it is still quite small here, though if you got the opportunity to go to the Phoenix, anyone would take it."

A scholarship to a college in the States next year is on the wish list, but until then Pratt will form a pivotal part of a St Peter's side boasting four of the 18 under-19 players picked to travel to Europe.

He seems ideally placed, with two of New Zealand's new wave of young, promising footballers in Tyler Boyd (ex-Tauranga Boys') and Marco Rojas, both coming through the same Hamilton Wanderers club that Pratt plays for in the afternoons after taking care of his commitments to his secondary school side.

The attacking midfielder is being crafted in the image of the young Kiwis in a move to produce players willing to keep the ball and play in the manner of Spanish giants Barcelona.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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