All White wants to see New Zealand selecting from a wider talent pool

All White Winston Reid has a World Cup side mission - to encourage more Maori interest in soccer.

Reid told the

Herald

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from his Danish home this week that the Maori factor helped him decide to quit Denmark's ranks and pledge his allegiance to New Zealand soccer.

The 21-year-old Reid, a fabulous prospect and one of two new caps in Ricki Herbert's 23-man World Cup squad, is not the only All White of Maori heritage with this aim.

Soccer's demographics are changing, aided by immigration and new perceptions. The game has long been seen as "soft" and even ridiculed by those who revel in the more obviously physical football codes which have dominated senior sport.

The problem of good juniors not carrying on in soccer is not simply a question of race however - professional opportunities are limited in this part of the world and only a few such as the brilliant Ryan Nelsen are motivated or good enough to take on the American college system or other overseas opportunities.

But there have been scant non-European players as role models to break stereotypes, and thus soccer has missed a talented avenue.

The great Wynton Rufer, a member of the 1982 World Cup team, is proud of his Maori bloodlines, but this aspect of the great player's heritage never received much attention.

There are four players with Maori heritage in the 2010 World Cup squad.

Reid has Maori bloodlines on both sides; Leo Bertos a Greek father and Maori mother, Rory Fallon an English father and Maori mother, and Jeremy Christie's father is Maori and his mum English.

Reid left New Zealand for Denmark when he was 10 with his mother, Prue, and stepfather, Jens Bjerregaard, and received Danish citizenship in 2006. He plays for Danish first division side Midtjylland.

He is close to his father Lyle James who lives in Papakura, and most of his family live around Auckland.

Reid represented Denmark 16 times at under-19, 20 and 21 level, but an interview by TV3 in March allowed him to reveal he wanted to switch.

"That [Maori heritage] is another aspect to this," he said. "If I can help other young Maori players to start off in soccer, that could be good. Hopefully I can help New Zealand football in that.

"I'm not saying it is just down to me, but if I can help encourage them I will do that."

Reid is so unfamiliar with any of his All White teammates that he didn't know if any had Maori heritage. When told they did he replied: "The more the merrier."

Northlander Jeremy Christie said from Florida that he had always tried, in the modest ways available to him, to encourage Maori to take up soccer and stick with it.

"I feel the same way as Winston," Christie said, when told that Reid hoped World Cup exposure would encourage Maori into soccer. "There are Maori kids playing the game now, but they seem to give it away when they are 12 or 13.

"I'm not sure why. But it's the same with the Pacific Island kids - they go and play rugby and rugby league."

Reid, an only child who played for Takapuna as a kid, further explained his decision to join the All Whites' ranks.

He had considered it for a year but felt unable to break away from Denmark on his own initiative. TV3's call allowed him to make his feelings known.

"I hadn't talked to Ricki Herbert for four years and I had no emails from New Zealand Football - they didn't have any way of knowing where I was at," said Reid. "I didn't want to go behind Denmark's back - it was a difficult situation. I probably needed someone from New Zealand to call me and luckily enough, TV3 did.

"I felt I was more a Kiwi ... my mum is Kiwi and my dad is Kiwi. I'm more a New Zealander than a Danish person.

"It is not because I don't like the people here ... my stepfather's family are Danish.

"But I have more to give to New Zealand and this is about who I am as a person. If I couldn't give 100 per cent to Denmark, then I shouldn't play for them.

"It was a very big decision and not just about the World Cup. I can try to give my best to New Zealand for the rest of my career."

Interest from three leading Italian clubs indicates Reid's class. How Herbert intends to use him is a fascinating World Cup selection decision.

The 1.9m Reid played defender, central midfield and striker in his junior days, but is now a right-sided central defender, where Ben Sigmund has operated for the All Whites.

Reid could be the answer in the problematic right fullback position, depending on what formation the All Whites use.

However he has played just twice at right back for his Danish club in 85 appearances.

The All Whites play Australia in Melbourne on May 24, which should mark his senior international debut.