'Unhappy' Football Ferns youngster Jasmine Pereira walks away from team, aged 20

Jasmine Pereira in action for New Zealand at the 2015 Fifa Women's World Cup in Canada.
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Jasmine Pereira in action for New Zealand at the 2015 Fifa Women's World Cup in Canada.

Stress and unhappiness caused by a battle to survive financially has caused Football Ferns forward Jasmine Pereira to step away from the national team at the age of only 20.

Following the shock international retirement of captain Abby Erceg in February, Pereira on Tuesday confirmed she had decided to stop playing for the national women's team.

The Auckland youngster, who made her Ferns' debut in 2014 and has 24 caps to her name, said the lifestyle she had as a member of the team was "really tough" to manage.

The Auckland forward also turned out for the Ferns at last year's Olympic Games in Rio.
REUTERS

The Auckland forward also turned out for the Ferns at last year's Olympic Games in Rio.

While she loved playing for her country, Pereira told Trackside Radio she felt like she was putting her life on hold.

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"Playing internationally and training like a professional athlete then not having the support money-wise really made it hard.

"I got to a point where I was struggling too much and I felt life was far too short to feel so unhappy about that kind of stuff, so I decided to stop ... I just felt it was my time to do something else and something that made me happy.

"It was an honour to wear the fern on my chest and travel around the world but over time it just became a lot harder when I had so many other things I needed to pay for and do."

Erceg, who plays professionally in the US, took a stand for the New Zealand-based, non-professional members of the squad in retiring earlier this year.

The Ferns' most-capped player having played 130 matches, Erceg hit out at New Zealand Football about a lack of financial support for the team.

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Pereira's situation had seen her move back in with her mother in west Auckland and working two different jobs from 6am until 3pm before heading off to training.

She was sometimes left wondering how she was going to put gas in her car and said the whole situation had a knock-on effect.

"I feel like I couldn't put my whole mindset into football because I was worrying about external stuff, that was hard," Pereira told Trackside Radio.

"A lot of the young girls in New Zealand are training with younger girls or even boys to keep up and develop ourselves but then we'd head overseas and still be miles behind the girls playing overseas already."

As a way of trying to bridge that gap, the national body announced a new Football Ferns Development Programme in late March.

The invitation-only programme, fully funded by NZF, caters for 25 New Zealand-based amateur players.

"They have all shown the intent to invest in themselves in order to strive for Football Ferns selection in the first instance and then to push onto a professional career overseas at the earliest but appropriate time," programme manager Gareth Turnbull said at the time.

It had, however, come in the wake of the Ferns' losing some of their government funding following last year's Rio Olympics and Pereira said the struggle to balance her football and financial commitments had simply taken her to an unhappy place.

"It was a hard decision and I didn't take it easily.

"One of the biggest things we talked about before I left was the necessities, like maybe gas vouchers ... trying to figure out if how we can either get sponsored if they don't have the money or creating ways to help girls have those necessities like food and gas.

"A lot of girls have support from their families which is good but some don't and it gets really hard."

Pereira is continuing to work in health and safety for her brother's business, while she is also working in retail and hopes to soon have a coffee caravan business she will run out of Rodney, north of Auckland.

 - Stuff

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