Waikato’s Matamata Swifts are celebrating the selection of midfielder Alex Mukaka as a full New Zealand international.
The 26-year-old (pictured, right) is off to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, not as a footballer but as a boxer representing New Zealand in the men’s under-57kg class.
The national lightweight champion has been a passionate footballer since playing school football for Matamata College.
He has since played for local clubs Cambridge and Matamata Swifts, turning out for the Swifts in the WaiBOP Premiership for the past two seasons.
However, four years ago, he took up boxing at the Walton Boxing Club and hasn’t looked back.
“I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I seemed to pick up the techniques quickly and began to focus in a way I hadn’t with any other sport,” the farmhand told local publication Scene.
His success in the ring has interrupted his football career with Mukaka playing a mere 45 minutes this season, coming on as a second-half substitute in Matamata’s 2-0 WaiBOP Championship loss at Te Puke United in May.
Mukaka left New Zealand in early July to head to Ireland for a pre-Games training camp, preparing for the start of Games competition on July 29.
He came to New Zealand 12 years ago, emigrating from Zambia and with dreams of representing his adopted country.
Mukaka goes for gold in Birmingham — and the football community will be cheering him on.