There is a perception among some that football is a game for pretty boys.

In many ways, Tamati Williams doesn't really help in efforts to dispel this myth considering the Waikato FC and former All Whites goalkeeper is a professional model who has worked the runways of Paris, Milan and New York.

The 21-year-old might have become one of the many faces in the modelling world but he's hoping to swap his Versace gloves for goalkeeping ones on a more permanent basis.

"I want to make football the main part of my life," Williams explained from his Auckland waterfront apartment. "It's why I came back to New Zealand to start playing again. I want to play for New Zealand and I want to be No 1."

There are actually a fair few credentials behind this desire. A New Zealand under-17, under-20, and under-23 representative, he was a part of the 2004 All Whites squad that failed to make it past the first round of qualifying for this year's World Cup. He was also called into the Football Kingz for their final year and trialled at Blackburn Rovers and Stockport County as an 18-year-old.

After more than 18 months overseas trailing the modelling circuit - he thought it would last little more than a month - Williams was drafted in as one of eight changes to the Waikato squad during last month's transfer window after a poor run of results that saw them sitting on the bottom of the NZFC table. Since then they've toppled defending champions Auckland City 2-1 and romped to a 6-0 demolition of Team Wellington.

"Physically Tamati has all the attributes but it's too soon for me to say if he will make it," Waikato coach Declan Edge said.

"He's still got a lot of work to do, there's no doubt about that, to make himself a good goalkeeper and he's the type of lad who will have to work hard on his game and his mental attitude."

Williams is still able to juggle football and modelling, although there's little work, he said, for guys in New Zealand ("there's not much demand for fashion here") and every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon he can be found on a street corner in Greenlane as one of six guys who carpool to get to training in Hamilton.

There hasn't been too much Mickey-taking, yet, and he's not scared to put his body, and face, on the line when a striker is baring down on him but otherwise Williams finds it quite hard to marry his two pastimes. "There are a lot of contrasting personalities in modelling," he explained. "A lot of people I don't get along with because there are a lot of smokers and a lot of attitude. I get along a lot better with sports people because of the sports mentality."

Williams plans to return to Paris once the NZFC season is over, and he also hopes to catch the eye of the national selectors with a view to picking up a few trials with professional clubs. It's tough making it in the big, bad world of professional football but, if it doesn't work out, at least he's got his day job.


- HERALD ON SUNDAY