A translated article from the Gothenburg Post
In a half year, Soccer Torslanda’s Men’s Team has returned from a fairly ordinary Swedish Division 2 team, to an unusual worldwide experiment.
Five players, a coach and a Sports Director from New Zealand, in what is supposed to be a bridge into Europe for New Zealand players. “The level is better than I thought,” says 20-year-old Owen Parker-Price.
05:00 – 20 Aug, 2019
“Wrong foot! Wrong foot!”
Declan Edge is intensely calling for a boy with blond calufs on the artificial turf of Torslanda. A 50s game between 12 and 15 years is here at a summer camp at Torslanda IK. The instructions are largely in English with New Zealand touch.
“Unlucky! This way, this way!”
Last winter, the club’s management agreed with the New Zealand based Olé Football Academy about a collaboration. GP reported on how parents in the association questioned the purpose behind the completely innovative merger.
Now, half a year has passed and the New Zealand influences are noticeable in the association.
During the youth football camp, the five new New Zealand acquisitions are all involved and helping as leaders. Dan Keat, the Sports Director who ended his active career in Gais 2017, instructs the kids along with Declan Edge. The two jobs were entirely for Torslanda and Olé Football Academy, but it is the New Zealand Academy that pays their salaries.
Torslanda’s New Zealanders:
Sports Director: Dan Keat (former player in, among others, Gais and Falkenberg
Head Coach: Declan Edge
Players: Owen Parker-Price, 20, Harrison Moss-Edge, 25, Dominic Woolridge, 20, Nando Pijnaker, 20, Andrew Withers, 25.
Three of the players who have flown here from the other side of the world are gathered. Owen Parker-Price, Andrew Withers and Nando Pijnaker were all brought up in the Olé Football Academy. In practice, they have lived as football pros all their adult lives – even if the money was not big. Football in New Zealand is no more than semi-professional, even at the highest level. That is the reason for the next of the country’s biggest football talents now representing Torslanda in Division 2.
Nando Pijnaker and Dominic Wooldridge played in the U20 World Cup in Poland earlier this summer, Owen Parker-Price has represented his country in the U17 World Cup. “I could have stayed in New Zealand or come here. But it was a simple decision. I’ve always wanted to come to Europe and play. I enjoy life here so I will be happy to return next season as well,” says Owen Parker-Price.
Coach Declan Edge goes through tactics before training. In the very important match against Uddevalla this weekend Torslanda won and moved from last place in the league.
Hard to reach professional leagues, the problem is the same as all promising New Zealand players face. The distance to Europe’s leagues is long. The cost is high. Now they have a solution in place. These players are the first test squad.
“In Sweden you are in Europe and you can be seen for other teams. You are close to other European teams that you can get in touch with. It’s a good place to be,” says Nando Pijnaker.
That a quarter of Torslanda’s men’s team now speaks English and comes from an island 17,373 kilometers away is undeniably something like the working group.
“The Swedish players have been really welcoming and kind to us who come to their club. If this happened in our country, I don’t know how I would have reacted to be honest,” says Owen Parker-Price.
How would you have reacted if it had been the opposite, that so many Swedes came to your club? “If the coach was good and the players were good I would just be happy. If the coach and the players were not good then I would not be. It’s so simple.”
The results have so far not been the path of Torslanda. The team is in Division 2. With nine games to play this fall, things hang on a fragile thread. But Dan Keat, who just talked about diet and sleep with the kids at the camp, are not worried.
The collaboration between Olé Football Academy and Torslanda does not depend on which division the senior team plays in. “We’re going nowhere. Whether we go up or down. People see results and do not understand the full scope of the project. Some people maybe think that we are crazy, that the club is crazy. But we believe in what we do, he says.”