“Football means everything to me,” said Sarpreet Singh, the nineteen-year-old Kiwi-Indian All Whites, when asked by The Indian Weekender about his passion for the game.

Mr Singh was in The Indian Weekender studio recently, speaking everything about his experience of growing up in South Auckland, his family, his Indian roots, his passion for soccer and future plans.

Excerpts from the interview.

IWK: How does it feel to be an inspiration for the Kiwi-Indian community?

Sarpreet Singh: It is pretty special to be doing what I am doing, to be a professional footballer, and this is something I have trained for my whole life. There is a lot more to achieve, I am happy where I am but I have high standards and high goals, and I am pretty focused on achieving them.

IWK: What does playing football mean to you?

SS: I started playing when I was five, and I have been playing ever since. Football means everything to me. I grew up in Manukau and played for Onehunga Sports growing up and went to Auckland based Wellington Phoenix Soccer School (WPSS) here and made the transition to Wellington.

IWK: The last few years have been quite critical for you, being hired for Wellington Phoenix Club. What was your drive in those days?

SS: It was realising what I wanted to do. Growing up, seeing that you can become a professional footballer opened my eyes. At 16, I realised I had an opportunity to go to Wellington, and there was a lot of sacrifices to be made. I had to leave home, my family and I was still so young as well. And two years later I achieved my first professional contract. So that was a significant milestone.

IWK: Who was more supportive of your decision to move Wellington, dad or mum?

SS: It wasn’t easy for my parents to let me go, they wanted me to stay home – especially my father. But, my mother was always more supportive, and I am doing everything to make her proud.

IWK: You played for your passion for a long time, and now you are a professional. What difference do you find in between the two?

SS: You always play for passion and even now when I am playing professionally; it’s the passion that drives to practice harder. Once you make that next step, it’s all about the way you look after yourself, how you prepare off the field, so making that jump doing the right thing. Seeing what people can do and achieve and looking up to big players to motivate me.

IWK: Do you have any favourite soccer player that you idolise?

SS: Christiano Ronaldo, I follow him and look forward to playing with him or against him someday.

IWK: You went on to play with Wellington Phoenix in Auckland and then to the Academy in Wellington. Tell us about this transition?

SS: I was training up WPSS and when I was asked to join the Wellington Phoenix. It was a tough decision, but I knew somehow that the end goal going there is to become a pro. It was in August 2015 when I was 16 when I moved to Wellington, and I had to wait another one and half years to get another contract at the age of 18, and it was indeed a dream come true.

IWK: How was getting the call from All Whites in February this year?

SS: It was exceptional to get a call from the national team, I was happy and honoured to get my first debut with the national team, first of many to come.

IWK: You got your first international goal against India at the Hero International Cup in India in June 2018. How was that feeling?

SS: It was a special feeling, scoring my first international goal for my country. It was a big game, a huge crowd and a massive atmosphere. We showed great character to come back from 1-0 after the half-time and then to win the game with 2-1.

IWK: Have you identified any international club that you want to play for?

SS: I am working hard, and I believe that things will come up when you are doing the right thing. I would love to go to Spain, but for now, I am with WP till 2020.

IWK: What advice do you have for budding footballers in our community?

SS: Have fun, enjoy it, work hard, do extras, think about people in your position and how you can be better than them. Eating healthy, keeping hydrated and the little one per cent that makes a big difference!