All Whites' goal hero Reid shows he belongs

Danish newspapers were scrambling yesterday to get a piece of the World Cup success of the All Whites and Winston Reid.

Their Winston Reid.

After all, the Maori lad from Takapuna has spent most of his life in Scandinavia, came through the Danish football youth ranks and until recently played in their national under-21 team.

STAR: All Whites goalscorer Winston Reid at a recovery session.
STAR: All Whites goalscorer Winston Reid at a recovery session.

Yesterday, the 21-year-old defender headed home an unlikely last-second equaliser against Slovakia yesterday to claim the All Whites' first point at a World Cup.

After long consideration, and consulting his family on both sides of the globe, Reid made the call in March to play for New Zealand after moving to Denmark with his mother and stepfather as 10-year-old.

He plays professional football with Danish top-flight club FC Midtjylland and has strong ties to his adopted nation, so where there ever any doubts?

"Of course I had doubts. I weighed up my options for a long time and I think I have made the right decision ... not because of the goal but because of the feeling in the team."

In March, Reid said it was not about the World Cup, "otherwise I would have picked up the phone in November", but about coming of age and a sense of belonging.

Having Maori blood in his veins played a major part. It was no surprise that the Maori members in the squad, especially Rory Fallon, took the shy young man under their wing when he first joined his All Whites team-mates on May 20.

"It was difficult for me in the beginning. I was new to the team and I just wanted to feel my way into the team. And, yes, I am a bit quiet."

Fast-forward four weeks and Reid now joins in the jam sessions that accomplished guitar player Fallon organises at their base at the Serengeti Golf resort and has even put a "Maori Only" sign on the back of their golf cart because other players keep "borrowing" it.

Reid does not enjoy the spotlight, and would rather do his talking on the pitch. He is fast earning the respect of his team-mates with some commanding performances in recent weeks and may have to get used to the limelight, judging by last week's reception with the high commissioner.

Before he had even kicked a ball in the World Cup, every woman in the room wanted to have her picture taken with the tall, photogenic All White.

The gym session the previous day had been no different as most female staff members grabbed their cameras when Reid entered the complex.

With a potential transfer to Italy's Serie A looming, the man is is a marketing dream. The goal against Slovakia would not have hurt his appeal.

Most Kiwi fans in the Royal Bafokeng Stadium yesterday were resigned to the fact that the All Whites would suffer a respectable, yet disappointing, 1-0 loss until Shane Smeltz whipped in a cross in the 93rd minute.

"I actually did not see the ball," Reid said. "When I saw it coming, I knew I just had to guide it on goal and not hit it too hard and it would go in. There was so much pace on the ball, I just had to guide it in."

After scoring "the most important goal of my life", the Danish Maori ripped off his shirt, ran towards the corner flag and was swamped by the entire All Whites squad.

When the white mass untangled, South African referee Jerome Damon presented him with the obligatory yellow card for taking off his shirt. "It was worth it," he laughed. "Something for the scrapbook."