Thanks for the goal, Winston!

By Yvonne Tahana

Winston Reid relaxes at the All Whites' base, the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Resort, the morning after scoring his history-making World Cup goal. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Winston Reid relaxes at the All Whites' base, the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Resort, the morning after scoring his history-making World Cup goal. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Winston Reid's whanau say they're bubbling with pride after watching their man become New Zealand soccer's most famous name.

The 21-year-old All White sent the country into raptures early yesterday when he headed home a goal with seconds remaining to tie the World Cup match against Slovakia 1-1.

It meant the All Whites claimed their first point at a World Cup tournament.

The fullback's aunt, Susan Reid, said she had yet to speak to her sister Prue or Reid's stepfather, Jens Bjerregaard, who were at the game in South Africa.

But family in Auckland couldn't believe their eyes when their boy scored.

"We didn't realise it was him because he plays at the back and we weren't expecting him to be there. Then suddenly my husband said, 'It's Winston', and then he ran past with his shirt off and I thought, 'Yes, I recognise that boy'."

Reid plays for FC Midtjylland in the Denmark Super League. His mother moved there in 1999 after she remarried, and he has dual citizenship.

He played age-group football for Denmark and switched allegiances only after a call from TV3, when he made his feelings known.

"At the end of the day he's a Maori," Susan Reid said. "He comes home to see his whanau. We're just bursting with pride. He's always been just Winston and now he's somebody else to a whole lot of people. To score our first World Cup goal - it's just so special."

Earlier, Reid's father, Lyle James, who lives in Papakura, told TVNZ he couldn't believe his son had scored. "My foot nearly went through the floor and my head just about went through the ceiling."

Reid, speaking from Johannesburg late last night, shrugged off the hero tag.

"I don't see myself as a national hero. It's more about the team. If it wasn't for the other bunch of guys I wouldn't be here."

He said he had been practising free-kicks, but not headers. And he said it was the goal of his life. "You don't get any better than [scoring] in the World Cup, do you?"

Earlier in the night, Close Up host Mark Sainsbury asked Reid what captain Ryan Nelsen had said to him after he had scored.

"Ryan is a big bear and he likes to hug people. He was just happy for me ... I think he wanted to congratulate me on my first goal and how important it was for the team and for the nation as well."

New Zealand great Wynton Rufer, who regularly chatted to the team via telephone in the build-up to yesterday's first game, said he was stoked with the result, which boded well for soccer's ability to attract more Maori players.

Football NZ doesn't keep statistics on how many Maori play the sport but indigenous players, female and male, make up 22 per cent of the country's elite teams.

In the current squad Leo Bertos, Rory Fallon, Jeremy Christie and Reid have Maori whakapapa.

Rufer, the Oceania Player of the Century, believes more young Maori will take up the sport on the back of top performances by talented role models.

"Rory's goal [against Bahrain last year] was the one that got us to the World Cup and then the next Maori turns up - bang in the back of the net. Unbelievable. History in the making," Rufer said.

Another former high-profile player, Harry Ngata, said rugby and league might get more of a run for their money now in terms of drawing and holding Maori talent.

"I'm biased. I'd love them to be playing football."

WINSTON REID

* An only child who played for Takapuna's junior ranks.
* On his mother Prue's side his iwi is Te Rarawa.
* On his father Lyle James' side he hails from Tainui.
* Moved to Denmark when his mother married Jens Bjerregaard in 1999.
* Speaks Danish.

- NZ Herald

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