Soccer: Pro dream on line for veteran goalkeeper

By Steven Holloway

Only Vanuatu side stand between Auckland and an audience of millions.

Tamati Williams is in the best form of his career after returning to the game. Photo / Natalie Slade
Tamati Williams is in the best form of his career after returning to the game. Photo / Natalie Slade

Auckland City goalkeeper Tamati Williams still dreams of playing professional soccer.

The zoology student, arguably the best amateur goalkeeper in New Zealand, has just been recalled to the All Whites and now, at the ripe age of 30, is playing the best soccer of his career.

Tomorrow, he hopes to help Auckland win the OFC Champions League and qualify for the Fifa Club World Cup in Morocco; a global tournament watched by millions. A good performance on the world stage could be the difference between professionally studying the animal kingdom or professionally barking at a back four.

But first Auckland must overcome Vanuatu Champions Amicale FC - a team the defending champions have struggled with recently - in the second leg of the O-League final.

Auckland were beaten 1-0 by Amicale in the OFC qualifying tournament in April and last week battled to a 1-1 draw in the final's first leg.

Which means tomorrow it's all on the line; the OFC crown, the minimum US$500,000 for qualifying and the professional dreams that a Fifa tournament brings.

"A win on Sunday would cap a perfect season, really," said Williams. "I don't want to jinx anything, not that I believe in that kind of stuff, but it would. It would be the first time that a team has gone on to win the charity shield, ASB minor Premiership, Championship and O-League and we also put in a good performance last year in Morocco, despite the loss."

Despite their struggles with Amicale, Williams is confident that Auckland will prove too strong at Kiwitea Street tomorrow.

"This is going to sound terrible but in some ways Amicale are not the toughest side we have faced this year. AS Pirae [who Auckland beat 4-2 on aggregate] were dangerous. I think if we played them 100 times it would be a lot more even spread than if we were to play Amicale.

"But that's not to detract from Amicale, who have only conceded one goal against us in two games. But both of their goals have come from very, very large mistakes from our end. And outside of that they haven't had a lot of very good scoring opportunities. If we can defend the way we're capable of and stop those big mistakes I think they will find it quite hard to score against us."

Williams has also been selected by interim All Whites coach Neil Emblen in the New Zealand squad to face South Africa on May 30. It's been a rapid rise back to the top for the former Football Kingz keeper who only returned to top level football in 2011 after leaving the game for four years as he travelled the world as an international model.

But now, in between juggling a post-grad diploma in zoology, Williams knows what he really wants.

"It's still my dream to play professionally. I have other things that I like to focus on in case it doesn't happen, because I'm not that young any more. But I think the majority of people that pick up some boots and start playing dream of being a pro and I'm still no different."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 23 Dec 2014 00:03:24 Processing Time: 553ms