All White Niko Kirwan seals return from injury with late goal for Italian club

All Whites defender Niko Kirwan has celebrated his return from serious injury with a stoppage-time goal for his Italian club Calcio Padova.

Kirwan, who has spent more than a year rebuilding his match fitness after a serious knee injury, came off the bench to score Padova’s final goal in their 3-1 Serie C match against Giana Erminio on Sunday (NZT).

Main photo: Niko Kirwan celebrates his goal with teammates in the Serie C match. Photo credit: Calcio Padova TV.

In a post-game interview, the New Zealand international demonstrated his Italian language skills, sharing his joy after scoring.

Kirwan (28) said his recovery from a ruptured cruciate ligament, suffered in training in August 2022, had taken longer than he expected.

Here’s a translation of his comments in English:

“The goal a liberation? I’m happy — scoring is a unique emotion. I’ve dreamed of it since I got hurt, especially doing it in front of our fans.

“I thought at the end of the season I would go back to how I was before, but instead it took a bit of time because you have to get back into the game.

“At the start of the season, I felt like before.

“The injury was a difficult period but it helped me grow as a man. But there is no greater emotion than scoring. We are here to put the coach in difficulty, I am happy with whoever plays and whoever takes over.”

Kirwan said he took pride in being named Padova’s vice-captain, and being recalled to the New Zealand national team for the October internationals against DR Congo and Australia.

He dedicated his goal to his parents, All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan and his Italian-born mother Florella, who left for New Zealand the day before the match.

“I’ll see them again this summer. Then the dedication goes to my girlfriend and the fans. They were close to me when I was injured; I will always remember it.”

Watch Niko Kirwan’s interview

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Game to be played on Saturday November 18, 2023 (NZT)

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Georgios Kamaras Stadium, Athens, Greece, 6am TBC (NZT)

Game to be played on Wednesday November 22, 2023 (NZT)

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Aviva Stadium, Dublin, 8.45am (NZT)

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