Young Christchurch United prodigy Oscar Obel-Hall is flying to Denmark this week to join Superliga club Esbjerg fB and fulfil his dream of playing for a European club.
Obel-Hall only turned 16 in May and is considered as one of the biggest football talents to come out of the Canterbury region in recent years.
New Zealand players usually do not to get a foot in the door at European clubs at such a tender age, but Obel-Hall’s dual Danish citizenship enables him to compete as a local player.
“I feel super-lucky. That Danish passport is definitely my golden ticket,” says Obel-Hall whose Danish mother Camilla will travel with him to help him get set up.
“Once I am all sorted with my apartment and with a new school, my mum will head back to New Zealand and I will be looking after myself. It will be a great experience,” says the youngster who has played in the Christchurch United first team under former All Whites star Danny Halligan for the past two seasons, regularly competing against national league players in the Mainland Premier League.
Christchurch United Head of Coaching Michiel Buursma says that everyone in the club is extremely proud one of their own is joining a professional club.
“Oscar has worked extremely hard for many years to get to this point. He is an inspiration to all our players and shows them there are pathways from Christchurch United to a professional career,” says Buursma.
Obel-Hall last year trialled at professional clubs in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark and went back this year to Winston Reid’s former club, FC Midtjylland, who were interested in signing him.
“Unfortunately, they had no spots left on their roster but recommended me to Esbjerg fB,” says the youngster.
The five-time Danish champions finished third in last year’s Superliga but have experienced a rollercoaster season and are currently staring at relegation.
Obel-Hall will initially join the club’s Under-17 squad and can’t wait to test himself against his peers on a day-to-day basis.
“From those trials I know I can keep up with them technically and physically, but everything is just a lot faster and it takes some time to get used to that.
“When you go for a trial it is really hard to jump off the plane after a long trip and perform 100% from the word go. At least now I can will have time to catch up with their fitness.”
Obel-Hall credits his technical abilities to his exposure to several high-calibre professional European coaches at the Christchurch Football Academy (CFA) since it was founded in 2014 and at Christchurch United after the two merged in 2017.
“I have been lucky to have worked with (Bulgarian) Tsetso (Ivanov) and the fantastic Dutch coaches who have worked here, as well as Danny Halligan in the first team. They have provided me the technical and tactical skills to be able to compete with players in Europe,” says the young talent who is followed closely by New Zealand Football for next year’s U17 World Cup in Peru.
Christchurch United president Slava Meyn, who founded the CFA, is pleased the club’s investment in top coaches is paying dividends.
“It just shows that good coaches are the key to giving players the best chance of success, whether you are in Europe or in New Zealand.
“Oscar will be missed in our first team, but we are incredibly pleased for him to get this opportunity and hope he will be the first of many players to follow in his footsteps.”