It took a painstaking 15-month selection process, but Nelson footballer Amelia Abbot has secured her seat to Uruguay for the U17 World Cup.
“It was a long, nerve-wracking process as they gradually cut the team down, but it was such a relief when it was announced because it was just so much work, I got there in the end.”
The 17-year-old had her selection spoiled by a Snapchat from teammate and former Nelson player, Hannah Mackay-Wright.
“I saw the email but I decided not to open it till I got home, but when I opened Hannah’s Snapchat it just said congratulations, so I knew then.”
Even after sharing the news with her ecstatic parents, Amelia says it still hasn’t quite sunk in.
“I guess it will be real once I get on the plane.”
Amelia’s selection is the realisation of a 12-year dream.
The midfielder started her football career at ‘first kicks’ at Saxton Fields when she was just five years old.
“My parents say I was always kicking a ball around and wanted to start playing shortly after I could walk.”
Amelia is the sole Nelson representative in the squad of 21.
“I’m feeling so honoured and grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given here in Nelson.”
She says Nelson Suburbs footballer Ryan Stewart has been a massive influence on her game and instrumental in getting her to South America.
“Skippy has always had my back, he helped get me into PIFA (Paul Ifill Football Academy) and put me into environments with boys and men which I wouldn’t have had without him pushing for it.”
Ryan will be on hand to present Amelia with her playing jersey at a ceremony in Auckland this weekend.
“I’m pretty excited to share that with him.”
She says Ryan’s battle with testicular cancer has served as a huge inspiration to her.
“He is a pretty tough guy and had quite a battle, but he got through it and always stayed positive.”
Throughout numerous New Zealand camps, Amelia has also spent the season playing in the Mainland Premier Competition for the Pride, travelling to Christchurch at least once a week for trainings and games.
Amelia says it has been a huge challenge learning how to balance her school work with her football career.
“I guess I have learned to have the right balance and not procrastinate.”
She says she has proven to herself that she can have the best of academic and sporting worlds.
“There are times I thought doing both to a decent level couldn’t work, but this year has shown me I can do a bit of both. “
Amelia will fly out of New Zealand on November 3 to where they will be based in Montevideo. New Zealand will meet Finland, Ghana and hosts Uruguay in pool play.
“Playing the home nation will be unreal,” Amelia says.
She says, once she hits the pitch she will treat it like any other game despite playing on the grandest stage of her young career.
“It will obviously be a higher level than I have ever played before, but I will just take it on as it comes.”
Throughout the rigorous selection process, Amelia’s love of the beautiful game never wavered.
“I have never not wanted to play or go to trainings.”
She says to pull on the fern is still an unbelievable achievement.
“I never expected to come this far and it was always more of a dream to represent the country, but now it’s real.”