Soccer: First choice stalls so What Now

By Michael Brown

Aaron Clapham hoped his involvement with the World Cup squad would lead to a professional contract. Photo / Getty Images
Aaron Clapham hoped his involvement with the World Cup squad would lead to a professional contract. Photo / Getty Images

There is a heavy irony in the fact Aaron Clapham is helping present children's television show What Now.

The 23-year-old midfielder has been asking himself the same thing when it comes to his football career.

Clapham was plucked out of obscurity to join the All Whites for the World Cup. That could have kick-started his goal of playing professionally - and he wasn't alone in thinking that - but his career has stalled.

He was supposed to trial with two A-League clubs, including Newcastle, on his return from South Africa. Both fell through. He has been linked with a move to the Phoenix, and trialled there earlier this year, but nothing has been forthcoming.

He's now tossing up whether to play for Canterbury United again in the revamped ASB Premiership (the old NZFC) or try his luck elsewhere, but there's not really anywhere else to go. The Australian state leagues are coming to an end, as is the US season, and Europe's transfer window shut on Tuesday.

"It was quite disappointing not to have something come up straight away [after the World Cup]," he says.

"I had a couple of trials lined up but they fell through. I'm hopeful of trying to line something up in January or February in Europe.

"If I can't find anything there, then I will try for the A-league next year. I haven't made any decisions in the meantime. At this stage, it looks like the NZFC.

"It's been really strange. I would never regret going to the World Cup because it was amazing. But it has hurt my career because of the timing.

"When I got back, most of the Australian teams had already sorted out their visa players and there's a limit on the number of imports they can have. I have made no secret of the fact I want to end up at the Phoenix but I haven't heard from them. You can't make someone sign you. I guess they weren't interested, for whatever reason."

Clapham trains almost every day either by himself or with a coach - allowing him to fit in time as a TV host.

It's something Clapham has "fallen into". He had a couple of guest appearances on What Now and The Erin Simpson Show, an after school children's programme, talking about the World Cup. He was a natural in front of the camera, so the producers of What Now approached him.

He helped film Slam!, an obstacle course game that features during What Now and, when the show's regular host was sidelined with illness, Clapham stepped in at short notice. He's now co-host of the segment on an ongoing basis.

"It's gone quite well," he says, "and I have a couple of other things coming up over the next few weeks. I feel surprisingly comfortable doing it. It's not something I planned or even aspired to do, but I have enjoyed it.

"With the All Whites, there was a lot of media attention and through that I became quite comfortable in front of the camera. Football is my No1 priority, and will be for as long as I can play, but you can't play football forever, so there might be possibilities after that. Maybe it's something I will head into more."

- Herald on Sunday

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