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July 20, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage | [ssba]

An Interview with an All White

There are very few New Zealanders who manage to make it in football at the highest level. 19-year-old Bill Tuiloma is currently doing so, and living the footballer’s dream at French club Olympique de Marseille. Bill was a member of the New Zealand Under-17s who visited Mexico for the World Cup, and also competed at the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey. His first call-up and cap for the All Whites was against Trinidad and Tobago, and he has been a member of the team ever since. Bill will also be a leading member of the New Zealand Under-20 side that will be playing in next year’s World Cup which is to be hosted right here in New Zealand for the first time.

Bill’s signing with Marseille has been touted as the biggest football signing ever out of New Zealand. Marseille have won the French national title nine times and the European Champions League in 1993. While most of Bill’s cousins enjoyed rugby from a young age, for Bill, it was always football, and he was mentored by his father from a young age as soon as his talent was apparent. Growing up in a religious family, Bill spent a lot of time at church with his cousins playing many different sports, but it was always rugby that his cousins chose to pursue over football. The footballer of Pacific Island descent said: “I am really glad I play football and have shown that rugby is not the only sport for Pacific Islanders”. Moving to Marseille was obviously a massive culture shock for Bill, and I asked him a few questions about his journey into playing at one of the most competitive football clubs in the world:

Marnie: What were your first impressions of the club when you first arrived and how well have you settled in since then?
Bill: At first I knew nothing about Olympique Marseille and the club, but when I got here, it’s got an amazing environment in football and it’s a nice city, so yeah I love it here and I have adapted pretty well. The language is pretty difficult; I am doing pretty good in the language department, but yeah, I love it here and I will try stay here as long as I can.

M: What is the fanbase like for Marseille?
B: It’s absolutely crazy: every day we have training, we get around 50-plus people watching us train, every day. They sing, and yeah, they are definitely crazy fans. We get about 60,000 people at a match, if not more.

M: You also had a trial with the LA Galaxy. What is football like in the USA compared with France and NZ?
B: USA was different; it was a good experience trialling with LA Galaxy, and I did actually train with David Beckham… just saying, haha… But yeah, the USA football is good for players close to retirement, but it is nowhere near as physical and intense as in France. I wanted to go to a club where I can develop and learn more as a player, where I can move to the bigger teams in England in football.

M: What is your daily routine?
B: Training starts at about 10.30, so we have to be there at 10, and it will normally finish around 12, and that will be it for the day.

M: How do you tend to train by yourself in your spare time?
B: After training, we tend to do more shooting or we go in the gym with a trainer and he’ll train us. It’s pretty much up to us if we want to do extra work, but I would probably work on my left foot: it’s pretty rusty. We just did the Yo-Yo test, we’ve done it twice now: it was horrible. My last score was 18.5.

M: How do you think your game has progressed since playing in France?
B: I reckon it’s progressed a lot: my technical and tactical areas have improved and also my physical. I have got a lot better, and they have definitely been pushing me hard so that all the negative aspects of my game have improved.

 M: Do you think NZ has the right approach to the development of young football players? What do you think they could be doing to better the development of NZ’s rising football stars, in your opinion?
B: NZ just needs to keep up its academies and keep coaching them as they grow up, so yeah: we have coaches who know their stuff, but they just need to find the kids and recognise them.

M: Do you think young NZ football stars are better off trying to make the Wellington Phoenix first, or are better off trying their luck in Europe?
B: I think it’s pretty much up to the individual, but trialling at different clubs allows you to learn and develop at each club, and if they want you, that’s just a bonus; but if not, you just have to move on. But yeah, going to Europe, I think, is good.

M: Did you have a favourite football club growing up?
My favourite club was always Manchester United, and that was partly because my favourite player was Ronaldo.

M: If you could be head coach of any team for a day, which team would you choose?
Well, first of all, I am a very bad coach, but probably Real Madrid.

M: So which team were you gunning for in the World Cup, and what was your favourite 2014 World Cup moment?
B: I was all for Brazil, but unfortunately that was short lived. My favourite moment would have to have been the winning goal by Götze. That was awesome.

M: What do you miss most about NZ?
B: Chilling on the beach, and also, pies. They don’t really have pies in France.

M: What are your goals for the future?
B: I want to end up playing in the England Premier League; that is the ultimate goal, but at the moment I am loving every minute in France.

M: So obviously you will be leading the New Zealand Under-20 football team in 2015 as New Zealand hosts the competition for the first time. Tell us about your hopes for the tournament, and what you are most looking forward to?
B: I think this team right now is going to be very good. Now we have players playing in Europe and playing in top clubs. Having an Under-20 World Cup at home is once in a lifetime! I’m so happy and excited! All my family and friends will be coming to watch.


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