Christchurch teen Oscar Obel-Hall off to Denmark to advance his football career
More Kiwi footballers than ever are heading to Europe these days, but there aren’t many doing so aged 16.
Christchurch teenager Oscar Obel-Hall is on his way to Denmark this week to join the under-17 team at Danish second-tier club Esbjerg fB, hoping it might be the launchpad he is looking for.
He made his debut in senior men’s football for Christchurch United last year as 15-year-old, coming off the bench against local powerhouse Cashmere Technical in a crunch Chatham Cup tie, and has since made a handful of appearances for them in the Mainland Premier League.
But as he puts it: “If you want to improve technically as a footballer, Europe's the spot to go to, really”.
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Obel-Hall has had a taste of European football, trialling at clubs in Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark last year, then again in Denmark earlier this year – the stint that eventually landed him a move to the coastal city of Esbjerg.
While he was trialling, the biggest thing that stood out was “the professionalism that all the kids there have”.
“Even from like 10 years old, all the young ones as well. You can feel it and you can see it.
“They all want to make it as professionals. They all want to make it to the first team of the club. They're all ready to go to training every day, because football’s just their life in Europe.
“That’s the biggest difference [to New Zealand].”
Denmark is currently home to a number of Kiwi footballers – Nikko Boxall at fellow second-tier club Viborg FF; Elijah Just and Dalton Wilkins at FC Helsingør, who just won promotion to the second tier; and Matt Conroy, who was in the youth system at Vejle BK, but is believed to be looking for a new club.
It is also where Winston Reid learned his trade before moving to West Ham United and the English Premier League – at FC Midtjylland, where Obel-Hall trialled and attracted interest.
The 16-year-old midfielder has Danish roots on his mother Camilla’s side, which have helped him make this move. He has been a member of the Christchurch Football Academy since it was founded by Russian businessman Slava Meyn in 2014 and at Christchurch United since the storied club merged with the academy in 2017.
Obel-Hall has watched with interest as a number of promising young Kiwi footballers have made moves to Europe in the past 12 months – a group headed by Sarpreet Singh at German superclub Bayern Munich – and he believes it’s an exciting time to be following in their footsteps.
“When you see players from New Zealand – because we're not really a footballing country – get snatched up by big clubs by like Bayern Munich, it gives you more hope,” he said.
“It just gives you more motivation, really, to keep going for it.
As he heads to Europe, Obel-Hall will also be hoping to catch the eye of national under-17 coach Martin Bullock, who is currently in the process of talent identification as he begins to plan for next year’s Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Peru.
Esbjerg played in the top-tier Danish Superliga in 2019-20, but were relegated to the First Division at the end of the season just gone.