Hillcrest High School's Tayla Christensen is still coming to grips with the idea of representing her country on the international stage.
It has been a swift rise for the gifted 15-year-old. She was recently selected in the Young Football Ferns and will be heading to Azerbaijan this month for the Fifa under-17 Women's World Cup.
“It's weird. Especially because I'm so young, I didn't think I'd be doing this - like not now or ever. It's exciting.”
Christensen was selected in the squad, after 30 players were reduced to 21, and leaves next week. She stops first in Switzerland for a few warmup matches before their World Cup campaign kicks off against Mexico on September 23.
The thought of travelling to foreign countries excites Christensen but she also knows that with it comes the expectation to perform well.
“There's lots of pressure to play good and perform but I guess that all comes with the privileges,” Christensen said.
The year 10 student, who plays as a striker, says she first played football as a child and went on to make representative sides.
For Christensen something as simple as putting on her playing kit is what she enjoys most about her sport, while she also loves bonding with team-mates.
“The team environment is really cool; I love when we play games and putting on the kit - it's real exciting.
“Just being able to wear the fern is real cool.”
While being selected in the national team is one thing, she also keeps her goals close as a reminder of what she hopes to achieve.
“I do set goals and I keep them in my wallet so I see them all the time.
“My recent goal was to make this team, which I didn't think I'd do, just because I'm so young, and I've only been there for a few months.”
While she may have one goal crossed off her list, Christensen is already looking ahead as she aims to set a high standard for herself and her team.
“[I want to] make sure our team has some good goals when we're over there, perform well and make sure I just get back and keep training.”
Christensen admits there are moments when football takes its toll with her having to travel to Auckland for training and arriving home late.
She says it is a struggle at times to fit in her school work, along with training, but feels she is able to push through it all.
“You've just got to do it. That commitment kind of comes with it.”
The support and sacrifices her family have shown are important to Christensen and she attributes her successes to them.
“They cried when I told them,” Christensen recalls when she told her family about her selection into the New Zealand side.
“They just support me and take me to trainings.
" I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them.”
- © Fairfax NZ News