Teenage football star Grace Jale is off to Brazil with the Football Ferns, but first ... exams.

The 16-year-old is in Year 11 at Mt Albert Grammar School and in the middle of her first NCEA exams.

"I can't let up on school, because I need school to get further, like, for travelling to the United States for college," she said.

"It's just priorities - think about winning a scholarship in two years, I have to get good exam marks now. I particularly like maths but I like science, biology and chemistry."


Jale has forged a reputation as a dynamic midfielder with her school's national First XI champions and the Eastern Suburbs premier women's team. She has come through the New Zealand under 17s and under 20s and last month helped the team qualify for next year's U-20 World Cup.

Now she has been included in the 19-player squad to take on Brazil on November 28 and December 1 as part of the Football Ferns' campaign to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

"I have played in Australia and Tonga, but Brazil seems like another world. It will be really different playing there because Football is the sport."

Competitive, athletic and 1.75m tall, Jale has not been tempted to switch to netball and, in the off season, enjoys cross-country running and Kiwi Tag.

"I have two older brothers and, since they started football, I have not wanted to play anything else. My dad encouraged me and my heart was set on football as soon as I started. I played with boys until Year 9."

She won Player of the Year in her first year playing for a Bay Olympic Club Team and was awarded a Variety Gold Heart Scholarship, given to exceptional youth, to help pay her training costs.