Family kickstarting football career

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 24/05/2014
Phoenix Academy 2014
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

FUTURE FOOTBALLERS: Members of the new Wellington Phoenix Football Academy. From left, Chanutr Phisitsak, 14, Wellem Ebbinge, 13, Kazuhiro Kawashima, 14, Sam Wilson, 15, Calvin Harris, 14, Jake Williams, 13, Ryosuke Shimizu, 16.

Phoenix Academy 2
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ
FUTURE FOOTBALLER: Thirteen-year-old Jake Williams, formerly of Nelson, with academy head coach Jess Ibrom.

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Signing for the Wellington Phoenix Football Academy has prompted a potential young star's family to move cities for his chance at the big time.

Jake Williams, 13, his parents and younger brother and sister all moved from Nelson after Williams was selected. He is attending Scots College, which this year began hosting the academy's training base.

There are 21 footballers aged between 12 and 16 at the academy, of whom 17 are enrolled at the college.

Headmaster Graeme Yule said the attraction of hosting the academy was the holistic approach to the boys playing top-level sport while also receiving a quality education.

They do not play for Scots College but participate in school life in every other way.

"Very few that go through the academy will make it to the top level, so there has to be an off-ramp. It would be irresponsible not to have that."

The boys knew that if their schoolwork was not up to scratch, they would not get to play, and that was appealing for a headmaster, Yule said.

Academy head coach Jess Ibrom has scouted six up-and-coming players from Korea, Japan, Mexico and Bangkok, while the rest of the group are Kiwis.

The Phoenix academy was launched in conjunction with the old Christchurch-based Asia Pacific Football Academy, with about half the players having been members of the existing programme.

"This is the only programme that is six days a week and fully integrated into a school," Ibrom said.

A more permanent playing turf and facilities worth an estimated $1 million were in the pipeline to allow the academy to grow in size.

Developing a women's side around a top-quality girls' school had also been discussed.

Williams was at a home-stay when he first moved to Wellington in January, but was now living with his parents after they sold the Nelson family home.

"I've found it much easier with the family support up here. There was an instant change in my football once they all arrived and we were back living together," he said.

The school was a great environment to learn and his peers at the academy were more like family than friends, Williams said.

"I've been able to meet people from all over the world and I'm just learning so much. It can be a challenge at times, but I love it."

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- Wellington

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