When Callum Kennett was 6 years old his coach threw him the goalkeeping gloves, and he hasn't taken them off since.

Now aged 15, the Levin youngster has caught the eye of national selectors and will board a plane with the New Zealand under-17 team bound for the World Cup in Brazil next month.

While the life of a goalkeeper could be different from that of the rest of the team, it was a position that sat well with Kennett.

"I enjoy it. I really enjoy the challenge," he said.

Callum Kennett.
Callum Kennett.

And the challenge was now getting real for Kennett and the NZ team as they underwent vaccinations and medical examinations this week. It was the first time NZ had qualified for the tournament since 2015.

Kennett could be kept busy at the tournament, though, as New Zealand was booked to play some of the strongest nations in world football. En route to Brazil the NZ U17 team will play games against Argentina and Mexico, in Argentina.

They were guaranteed to play Brazil at the tournament, which starts October 26, as they shared a pool with the host nation.

NZ were taking three goalkeepers in their squad of 21, and while Kennett was the youngest, he was hopeful of game time.

His selection was reward for commitment. Each week he made four trips to Wellington for training, as he had been part of the Wellington Phoenix Academy since he was 13.

Then it was back to the capital at weekends for games, where this season he played for a Lower Hutt club side in a men's grade.

In July this year he received an email with an invitation to attend a pre-World Cup training camp, and soon after started learning Portuguese when he was told of his selection.

Callum Kennett.
Callum Kennett.

He had played football from a young age and originally made local representative age grade sides before gaining selection for Manawatū teams.


The NZ team would fly out on October 13. Sky Television were screening tournament matches.

Kennett had received support from locals and wanted to thank the Levin Sports Charitable Trust, the Muhunoa East division of Rural Women, Levin AFC, Levin Old Boys Cricket Club, Warren and Michelle Webb Contracting, Horowhenua District Council, Dakin Autos and Epic Goalkeeping.