Despite her tender years, Malia Steinmetz will be one of the most experienced players at this month’s OFC U-19 Women’s Championship and is looking to draw on that to be a key player for New Zealand.
At just 18, the Forrest Hill Milford United midfielder has already appeared for her country in two major tournaments – the U-17 and U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cups – and even tasted life as a full international early this year after being called up for the Football Ferns.
She describes all three experiences as important parts of her development and wishes to stick around the senior national side as much as she can.
“The U-17 World Cup in Jordan was a great time for me, we loved it,” she says.
“After each match, we would always come together at our dinners to reflect and try to be better for the next game,” she adds.
“The U-20 World Cup in Papua New Guinea was also really good, it was a different group of girls in a different environment and a step higher I guess you could say. But it was just great to be there and to learn off all the older ones.”
An even bigger development opportunity was soon to arrive in unexpected fashion as Football Ferns coach Tony Readings named Steinmetz as one of three uncapped players in his squad for February’s Cyprus Cup.
The talented teen did not make it onto the field at the tournament but relished the experience nonetheless.
“It wasn’t expected so was just more of a learning experience for me and I learned a lot from them all,” she says.
“I am aiming stay around the Ferns environment, get as close to it as I can and just be there.”
With all her recent international experiences coming on foreign shores, Steinmetz is looking forward to playing in front of a local crowd in the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship, to be held at Ngahue Reserve in Auckland from July 11 to 24.
The tournament acts as a qualifier for the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France and Steinmetz feels home advantage will be a significant boost to New Zealand’s quest to get there.
“I’m very excited and am happy it’s in Auckland actually so I can have my friends and family around to support.”
First up for Gareth Turnbull’s side will be Papua New Guinea, who finished runners-up in the 2016 OFC U-17 Women’s Championship and are expected to be New Zealand’s strongest challengers.
Steinmetz has done her homework on how the Pacific Island sides involved in the tournament – which also features Fiji, Tonga, New Caledonia and Samoa – are likely to play and knows the home nation cannot afford to take any opponent lightly.
“They’re physical and try their best for the whole 90 minutes no matter what the scoreline is. So you always just have to keep going and try to get as many goals as you can.”
Steinmetz is one of many members of the squad who are also part of the Football Ferns Development Programme (FFDP), an initiative put in place by New Zealand Football to help bridge the gap between the domestic game and international football.
As part of the programme, the FFDP group compete in a male 17th-grade league and train four times a week, as well as being made available for their clubs whenever possible.
The environment provided by the FFDP has played a huge role in New Zealand’s preparations for the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship and Steinmetz is using every minute to learn and develop further.
“Being in that environment really works on my development as a player and I feel this can set us up well for the future, especially for the U-20s.”
New Zealand schedule at OFC U-19 Women’s Championship
(Ngahue Reserve, Auckland)
vs Papua New Guinea
Tuesday 11 July, 10am
Friday 14 July, 10am
vs New Caledonia
Monday 17 July, 12.30pm
Friday 21 July, 10am
Monday 24 July, 10am