Christchurch United talents Seamus Gallagher and Nicholas Murphy have returned from Japan with incredible memories, new friendships and invaluable new experiences about what is required at the highest level.
The two Christchurch United players were invited to bolster the Wellington Phoenix Soccer School under-12 squad for a grueling two-week tour around Japan where they played 11 matches against some of Japan’s leading professional football clubs.
Nicholas said he was grateful to have experienced “a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” on and off the pitch, as a footballer and as a young person.
The St Bedes student had been immensely impressed by the intensity his Japanese peers who come through one of the best youth development systems in the world.
“They were quick, disciplined and kept their hunger for the whole game,” said Nicholas.
Seamus said he was inspired by playing against teams who operate at a professional level.
“It left me with the question of how do I close the gap between what I can do and how they play in Japan?” said the St Thomas student.
“I’m going to have to work ten times harder.”
As the tour progressed, the Christchurch United players and their Phoenix team-mates proved that they could adjust to their new opponents and environments.
The rapid progress of the New Zealanders was no more evident than the last weekend when they reached the final of the high-profile Reysol tournament.
The Phoenix team beat five Japanese club sides, including a nail-biting penalty shoot-out against Funabashi FC in the semi-final, before the top Japanese professional club Kashiwa Reysol proved to be too strong in the final.
The narrow 2-0 defeat against the host team was still a massive step forward because the same opponent had inflicted a heavy 7-2 defeat on the touring Phoenix team only four days earlier.
Phoenix Soccer School Director Jo Dawkins said that the Christchurch United players had been a “fantastic” addition to the squad.
“Both on and off the field the boys became extremely valued members of our team. We look forward to keeping an eye on their development in Christchurch,” said Dawkins.
Christchurch United Academy Director Colin Williamson said the club was immensely proud the players had performed so well and was looking forward to hearing the stories from Japan.
“It will be interesting to see how they will use these experiences. They went over with some of New Zealand’s best talents, got some good results but were also well beaten by some clubs, so they have seen what it takes to compete with top international players,” said Williamson.
“Hopefully these experiences will inspire them and hopefully they can share those experiences to inspire others in the club as well.”