Special feature: Auckland City striker Angus Kilkolly’s third FIFA Club World Cup

Tim and Margaret Kilkolly remember being awoken to their son screaming maniacally. The first time they hurtled to his aid, only to find Angus, who should have been fast asleep, celebrating a Manchester United goal.

Thereafter, they got used to it, though they did bug him about going to school tired. He told them to relax, that he was going to become and footballer, play for the Red Devils. Angus Kilkolly never got to ‘The Theatre of Dreams’, but he is heading into a fantasy — the FIFA Club World Cup — for the third time.

Main photo: Angus Kilkolly … his third visit to the FIFA Club World Cup. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

The on-song striker chats to FIFA about getting time off from his day job, going up against Karim Benzema and how Auckland City can pull off a seismic upset in Jeddah …

You were a big Manchester United fan growing up. Do you remember them winning the Club World Cup in 2008?

I’m still a big Man United fan now. I watch them all the time. I used to get up in the middle of the night. I was about 12 at the time of the Club World Cup. It was actually the first one I remember. We beat Chelsea on penalties in the Champions League final in Moscow. It’s always exciting to go and play on the world stage. We won the title. Ronaldo and Rooney, they were excellent at that time.

What about Auckland’s historic run to third place at Morocco 2014?

I remember it well. I watched all the games. It was the same year Western Syndey Wanderers were there from Australia, and they had a game that was completely waterlogged. To see a team from New Zealand competing on the world stage and doing what they did was just incredible. It was amazing for the whole country. The whole country got behind it.

What was your first Club World Cup experience like with Team Wellington in 2018?

It was awesome. Auckland had won the Oceania Champions League seven years in a row, so to break their reign was already a big thing. To go to the Club World Cup, especially as a young player, was incredible. But to be 3-0 up on Al Ain and to lose was a real eye-opener.

Angus Kilkolly playing for Team Wellington against Auckland City in 2019. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

And with Auckland City at Morocco 2022?

Another incredible experience. All the FIFA events, they’re always top tier, run so expertly. We feel a little bit gutted about that one really. It fell right at the start of our season, so we were out of football for a couple of months going into that one. The match-fitness, the speed weren’t there for us. You’re playing against top players, so you need to be at the peak of your game. None of us were at our peak in Morocco.

On an individual level, you must be pleased with your own form?

Absolutely. I’ve been scoring goals, helping the team win games. We’re very disappointed with how we ended the season in New Zealand. We started the year really well, winning the Oceania Champions League and having a really good start to the national league campaign as well. We let ourselves down in the last two or three games. Maybe that’s because we’ve had one eye on this tournament.

Auckland City prepare for the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Auckland City spent a bit of time in Dubai, you’re now here in Saudi Arabia. How have preparations been going for the competition?

Preparations have been going really well. It takes time to get used to the time zone, get used to the climate, and being in Dubai gave us chance to do that. The facilities and training pitches were class. It’s also good for us to be away from home because we’re not full-time footballers. We’ve all got day jobs and if we were at home, we’d be working full-time and training on a night. We’ve all got leave to be here, so we can fully concentrate on being professional footballers day in, day out, looking after ourselves properly, preparing in the right way.

Can you tell us about your day job?

I’m a project manager for a painting company. I work in construction really. My day starts early. I’m on site at 7 o’clock. That goes through till about 4 o’clock, driving by construction sites, managing the boys. Then after that I go straight to training! I do that on repeat four times a week and then play a game at a weekend.

How did you get time off for Saudi Arabia 2023?

I pretty much use all my leave for football trips. I don’t get any other holidays. I had a bit saved up and my boss was really good about the rest, giving me paid leave. My boss knows that these tournaments are a dream come true, so he’s really good about it. I’m very grateful.

Karim Benzema. Photo credit: FIFA.com

As a striker, how do you feel about going up against Karim Benzema?

It’s still surreal that we’re going to be playing against him. He’s one of the best strikers in the game over the past 10 years. Not that long ago he was at Real Madrid, scoring hat-tricks all the time. These are the type of the players you are used to watching to see what they do and try to bring it into your own game. To share a pitch with Karim Benzema and compete against him will be an amazing experience and something I’ll get to say I’ve done for the rest of my life.

How can Auckland City beat Al Ittihad?

I think we have to be ourselves. We’ve done a lot of homework. We have a game plan we think we can use to get at them a bit. We’re not going to get overwhelmed by the occasion; we are going to express ourselves. We’re playing in front of thousands of people on the world stage. It’s an incredible opportunity for us to see if we can compete with these guys and show that there are some good footballers from New Zealand.

One of them is obviously Cam Howieson. What do you think of him as a player?

Probably the best player I’ve ever played with. An incredible player, an incredible athlete, an incredible captain. He works so hard day in, day out. He’s an excellent player and a true professional.


The interview with Angus Kilkolly was first published by FIFA.com.

READ MORE: Special feature: Auckland City skipper Cam Howieson’s “big, big dream” >>>>


FIFA Club World Cup

Game to be played on Wednesday December 13 (NZT)

Al-Ittihad v Auckland City
King Abdulah Sports City Stadium, 7am (NZT)

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