Winston Reid, the scorer of the goal that earned New Zealand their first World Cup point, admitted that opting for the All Whites had been the toughest decision of his life.
Reid, who was raised in Denmark and won 10 caps for the Scandinavian country’s under-21s, only committed himself to the country of his birth in March, with the lure of playing in the World Cup finals proving too strong to resist.
For a time on Tuesday, it looked as if his adventure in South Africa was going to end in tears with the 21-year-old caught out of position as Robert Vittek headed Slovakia into the lead five minutes after half-time.
But he made amends in fairytale fashion. After producing a superb block to deny Vittek a second goal, it was Reid who popped up in the box deep into injury time to head Shane Smeltz’s cross in off the post and earn New Zealand a historic point.
“If you look at the smiles on the guys’ faces, that says it all,” Reid said afterward. “I thought their goal was offside but they made it tough for us in the second half. So to come back and get the equalizer is a fantastic feeling. This is the biggest stage in the world for football and that has to be the most important goal of my life.”
Reid left New Zealand as a ten-year-old after his parents separated and his mother relocated to Denmark with his Danish step-father.
The young Reid’s talent was recognized early and he progressed through the Danish youth system without ever giving a 100 percent commitment to his adopted country.
“For a long time I have been torn between the two countries. I was asking myself if I was a Kiwi or a Dane,” he admitted.
“The Danish FA contacted me when I was 17, but at this age I was not able to take such a big decision.”
Currently with Danish Super League side Midtjylland FC, for whom he made his debut at 17, Reid is hoping that his performances here will attract interest from clubs in Europe’s bigger leagues.
And, like the rest of the New Zealand squad, he is also hoping that success in South Africa will give soccer a lasting boost in the home of the All Blacks.
“Rugby and cricket are obviously dominant there, but if we have a good tournament I hope it will make kids interested in playing football,” he said.
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