Rathkeale College’s Josh Rudland, left, and Kuranui College’s Connor Turton travelled to Chile in September to play 12 games of football, winning nine and bringing home five trophies. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

FOOTBALL

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

Two Wairarapa schoolboys are dreaming big after making their international football debuts in Chile.

Rathkeale College’s Josh Rudland and Kuranui College’s Connor Turton travelled to Chile with a team from the Greater Wellington region led by football coach Pedro Garcias.

The boys toured the South American country from September 19 to October 13, playing football against college and representative teams.

The Wellington side won nine of their 12 games, including a match against Liceo San Juan Bautisa, a physical U17 team, that came down to penalty shootouts.

Rudland said the trip has helped strengthen his ambition to play professional football overseas.

“I think going over there and seeing the people’s love for football despite the challenges they face makes me want to work hard on myself, because I have so much more opportunity,” he said.

Each game began with the New Zealand national anthem, and the boys stayed with several the teams they played against.

Between games the boys visited four schools and an underground mine, toured a navy ship and watched local professional games.

Team-mate Connor Turton was impressed with the passion the Chilean crowds showed during the professional matches.

“Over there they just take it to another level, they get much more excited than we do,” he said. “There is also a lot more hatred for the opposition.

“The crowds get pretty intense.”

He was particularly touched by their trip through an abandoned mine.

“Our guide’s dad and his brothers had worked in the mine, it was quite an emotional experience for everyone – it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Preparations for the trip began in early 2017 with the boys holding several quiz nights and selling raffle tickets to raise funds.