July 29, 2011
AUCKLAND – The World Cup performances of Football Ferns Amber Hearn and Ria Percival has led to professional contracts in Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga with USV Jena and FFC Frankfurt .
Hearn, 26, signed a one year deal with Jena shortly after the World Cup while with three times European champions Frankfurt announced overnight that Percival, 21, had signed a two-year deal after impressing on a post-World Cup trial.
Hearn scored New Zealand’s goal against Japan in a 2-1 loss to the eventual FIFA Women’s World Cup champions and set up another in 2-1 loss to England, while Percival was the provider for Hearn’s goal and added late spark in the comeback 2-2 draw with Mexico.
After playing Champions League football with Arsenal and scoring for New Zealand at both the Olympic Games and Women’s World Cup, Hearn said turning professional completed her football bucket list.
“This is my first professional contract so it’s great to achieve my last goal,” said the 48 cap striker who has scored 23 times for the Football Ferns.
“I can’t wait to get over there and start playing with, and against, the best local and international players.”
Percival, who played all three World Cup games for the Football Ferns in midfield but is seen as a fullback by Frankfurt, says she is relishing the opportunity to play for a club that starts among the favourites in the three domestic and continental competitions it competes in.
“It has always been a dream of mine to play in Germany and to sign for a club like Frankfurt, which is probably the best over there is really exciting.
“They will be chasing the league, the cup and the Champions League again and I want to contribute to the club winning those trophies.
\With a squad full of internationals, the 59 cap Fern faces a battle to force her way into the starting line-up but one that she is braced for.
“I think they have eight German internationals, two from Sweden and one from Japan so it will be a big challenge to break into the squad but I’m prepared to fight hard to make it.”
The pair join New Zealand captain and Wolfsburg defender Rebecca Smith in the German league and they could soon be joined by team mates Katie Hoyle and Sarah Gregorius who have also had interest from German clubs.
With Hayley Moorwood (Chelsea) and Emma Kete (Lincoln Ladies) already plying their trade in England; Kirsty Yallop (Vittsjo) playing in Sweden; and Ali Riley (Western New York), Betsy Hassett (UCAL Berkeley) and Rosie White (UCLA) based in the USA there are more overseas players in the squad than ever before.
New Zealand coach John Herdman believes it bodes well for the Football Ferns hopes of qualifying for and competing well at the London Olympics.
“It was part of our long term migration strategy to get five players into professional environments – particularly into the top three leagues – by the end of 2011 and we’re getting beyond that now,” Herdman said.
“It means we have more players who will train and compete best-with-best every week and that can only help the Football Ferns improve.”