by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — Thirteen-year-old Aaron Dahmen scored the winning goal for New Zealand in a football match against Australia in January — but, sadly, his Dad was not on hand to share in his delight.
Aaron’s father, Christian, died aged 47 on December 29, following a lengthy illness.
Aaron, who belongs to St Mark’s Parish in east Auckland, told NZ Catholic that he had been playing football since he was 7 or 8 — taught initially by his Dad.
He now plays in the premier league 14th grade for Eastern Suburbs.
He has been part of a football academy called Coerver NZ since he was about 10, he said.
It wasn’t long before he had won higher honours.
He toured England in 2009 with a New Zealand U-13 team. “I went to trial for Liverpool Football Club, and also played against an academy squad . . . for New Zealand. I was 11.”
His just-completed tournament was his second international football trip.
“This was an academy for New Zealand, selected to go to a Coerver Oceania football camp in Canberra.” The programme consisted of two training sessions a day — the latter being 3 v. 3 (3 players against 3) at the University of Canberra stadium. The players also visited the Australian Institute of Sport.
The 3 v. 3 sessions, Aaron explained, were called a World Cup, “but it was more like an Oceania tournament”, which ran from January 19 to 22.
A blow to Aaron was that he strained his calf on the first day and could barely walk. “I was very frustrated and worried. I have never been so worried.”
But he wasn’t going to wimp out. “I was really, really determined to go and do something, especially after my Dad’s passing.”
Aaron’s determination was justified, as he recovered well enough to play again.
“My 3 v. 3 team got into the grand final, and we won” — against Australia. “I scored the winner in the last minute,” he said.
Aaron is now waiting to hear if he will be selected for the Oceania U-15 team to go to Spain later this year to play in the Donastey Cup — essentially a world championship series for U-15 teams, he said.
Football is a real connection for Aaron to his Dad. “My Dad taught me how to play football,” he said. “It’s sort of like praying; you can zone out everything else pretty much.”
Aaron said his Mum, Dagmar, and his Dad separated in 2009, but remained on good terms, and she had taken “massive care of Dad when he was sick”.
She had been amazing in coping with so much, Aaron said — but they also both agreed that the support they had had from St Mark’s Parish had been “brilliant”.
Aaron said he is now in the running for an award called The NZ Herald Future Stars of Sports Awards, which gives six young people $1500 to follow their dreams, “which is obviously appealing to my family due to our current financial state”.
Aaron started his first year at Sacred Heart College on January 31.
by PETER GRACE