Nina Kondo, left, will tour China with the national Under-16 team. PHOTO/FILE
All the hard work is starting to pay off as Wairarapa United’s Nina Kondo moves a step closer to realising her dream of playing for New Zealand at next year’s women’s Under-17 World Cup.
Kondo was this week named in the New Zealand Under-16 team to play in a tournament in China next month.
The 15-year old is one of six midfielders included in the squad of 18, selected by coach Leon Birnie, as part of New Zealand’s build-up to the 2020 Under-17 World Cup to be played in India.
Kondo’s skills and confidence have blossomed after becoming a regular starter as an attacking midfielder for the Tumu ITM Wairarapa United women’s team.
The team lead the Capital Football W-League on 18 points from six wins and a loss.
The Year 10 Solway College pupil, who hails from Nelson, moved to Masterton this year to join the Paul Ifill Football Academy.
She has previously played for Mainland at the age-group national championships, being selected for the tournament team and being named in the national Under-14 identification squad.
Kondo, whose father is Japanese, and her mother, Kiwi, has also had two training stints in Japan.
Kondo said on Wednesday her selection was unexpected.
“I was actually quite surprised, but I’m also really excited to be able to go and experience this week [in China].”
She said there had been a lot of hard work, but training with the Ifill Academy had been instrumental in her selection.
“All the extra training I’ve been getting in has helped and definitely improved my football since I came up here.”
The team for the China tournament was chosen from a 32-strong ID squad, which will meet for a further training camp before the squad is named for the Under-17 Oceania World Cup qualifiers in December.
Kondo is hopeful the China tournament will help her realise her dream of making the team
“We will probably play teams like China and Japan, and hopefully I can get the opportunity to showcase my talents.
“I’m feeling quite prepared, it’s obviously good for me and I’m super excited.”
Kondo’s Wairarapa United coach, Ifill, said on Wednesday he was very pleased with Kondo’s selection.
“She deserves it.
“She’s only 15 and we had to get dispensation for her to play in the women’s league when she was 14.
“We knew this was coming up and that is the reason why we brought her up here.
“She’s still finding her feet. She’s always had a lot of ability.
“I knew that from when I first saw her in Nelson, and it was about her gaining confidence. It was almost like she didn’t want to show off.”
Ifill credited a couple of Kondo’s teammates for helping her development.
“Meisha [Boone] and Ana [McPhie] have taken her under their wings and really helped her gain her confidence.”
New Zealand will compete in the Under-16 women’s tournament from July 14-22 in Weifang City, in Shandong province.
There, they will play three matches against yet-to-be-confirmed Asian opposition.
Under Birnie’s management, the Young Football Ferns made it out of their group to stun Japan in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Uruguay last year. They then beat Canada for the bronze medal.
Kondo’s selection for the China tournament is no guarantee that she will be picked for the Oceania qualifiers, but with none of the players returning from last year’s World Cup team, it will give her an excellent opportunity to make the next step of her international career.