A 12-year-old Tauranga schoolboy has been given the opportunity to follow his football dream with an invitation to train with top professional English club Fulham.
Mirko Brinkmann earned the chance to spend three weeks with the London club when he impressed coaches at recent national training camps held by the Ricki Herbert Football Academy.
Mirko was one of about 120 talented youngsters invited to attend two RHFA national camps in Taupo in September and October.
They were attended by Fulham academy coach Dave Wright who spent six days working with the players as part of a partnership between his club and the RHFA.
The RHFA was established in 2014 by former All Whites and Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert, and now has 10 centres around New Zealand, including one at Tauranga.
“This is an incredible opportunity for Mirko and along with family and friends we would like to congratulate him on this achievement,” says RHFA head coach Kale Herbert.
Mirko started his love of football as a three-year-old growing up in Hong Kong, and quickly decided he wanted to play at the highest level. When he was six, his father took him to watch New Zealand in action at North Harbour Stadium, and Mirko told him he wanted to become an All White.
Mirko is the first player invited to spend time with Fulham’s academy since the club established its links with the RHFA as part of its strategy of searching worldwide to identify players with potential.
“Through his efforts at both camps, Mirko has shown he has the skill set required to perform in the Fulham academy environment,” says Kale.
Mirko will spend three weeks at Fulham’s academy ground, Motspur Park, next March and will see first hand what goes into becoming a professional footballer.
Fulham play in the English Championship, the second highest tier of UK professional football, and are one of the country’s oldest clubs, having been formed in 1879. They have produced many full internationals.
Fulham’s home ground is Craven Cottage where RHFA founder Ricki Herbert made his debut as an international team coach, leading the All Whites onto the pitch to play Australia in 2005.
All White Simon Elliott – who represented New Zealand 69 times – was a Fulham player between 2006 and 2008. He went to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa with the undefeated Herbert-coached All Whites.