Young trio chase their dream of playing elite club football in Europe

For many young footballers in Aotearoa and worldwide, Europe is seen as the promised land.

Playing European football is something few Kiwis experience. So, how do ambitious New Zealand players find a club prepared to give them their shot at living their football dream?

Three of New Zealand’s best up-and-coming players — Kian Donkers (19), Dublin Boon (19) and Adam Supyk (20) — share their experiences with writer Matias Gidden …

By Matias Gidden

By the end of 2022, Canterbury teenagers Kian Donkers and Dublin Boon packed their bags, their boots and their footballing dreams, ready for their biggest test.

Would they be good enough to play elite club football in Europe, competing for contracts with aspiring professionals from all over the world?

Donkers had just completed a successful season as a striker, scoring 11 goals for Southern League side Cashmere Technical, and he had performed well for New Zealand at the 2022 OFC U-19 Championship, scoring nine goals.

He chose to try his luck in the Netherlands, where he had landed a trial with Eredivisie (Netherlands first division) side NEC Nijmegen.

“I performed well for the NZ U-19s and that meant that people were able to see me. From there, the head of scouting at the club (NEC Nijmegen), who was a former coach of mine, messaged me to say he could sort out a trial,” Donkers says.

Dublin Boon … joined Dutch club Roda JC.

Goalkeeper Boon, who had broken into first team football with Southern League side Nomads United, went to Australia where he attended a camp in Victoria, attended by scouts and coaches from Dutch and Belgian clubs.

Feeling he had done well at the camp, Boon decided to head to Europe.

“Some of the coaches and scouts showed interest after the camp, so I decided to head over and try to organise some trials.”

Within a fortnight of his arrival, Boon was able to train with Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven and had a trials with OH Leuven in the Belgian top flight. But it was a third club, Dutch second-division side Roda JC, who signed him for their U-21 squad.

READ MORE: Nomads United ‘keeper Dublin Boon signs for Dutch second division club >>>>

Fullback Adam Supyk was at the Wellington Phoenix academy in 2022 and was impressive at the OFC U-19 Championships, the qualifying tournament for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Main photo: New Zealand’s Adam Supyk playing against Papua New Guinea at the 2022 OFC U-19 Championship, Tahiti. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

He was contacted by an agent to see if he was interested in organising some trials in England.

“I have a UK passport, which made things a lot easier, and I also have family that I could stay with, so it seemed like a good move to make,” Supyk says.

After a few trials failed to materialise and he changed his agent, Supyk got his chance to trial with English Championship club Stoke City and then at Premier League outfit Brentford.

“I felt like I was thrown into the deep end a bit, which was tough. Being the new guy and having a different accent meant that most players didn’t even know where I was from; they just assumed I was Australian,” Supyk says.

“They also see you as an enemy, in a way, because you’re there to take their position.

“I started to feel a lot more comfortable when I got out onto the pitch, though. I started to do my thing, and all the nerves seemed to go away after that.”

Donkers and Boon shared Supyk’s view that dealing with the rise in intensity at training was the biggest hurdle they faced.

“In the first few weeks of training, I definitely found that matching the intensity was the biggest challenge for me,” Donkers says.

“I feel that’s probably the main thing boys coming over from New Zealand would relate to.”

For Boon, communicating with teammates was a struggle at times.

“Sometimes, people won’t understand what I’m saying, so during games that can be an issue as a goalkeeper.”

So, as the trio prepare to turn 20 in 2024, do their dreams remain intact?

Boon is still playing for the U-23s at Dutch second-division side Roda JC, where he has also featured on the bench for the first team.

Born in the Netherlands, Donkers left NEC Nijmegen in the January transfer window and signed for the U-23s of VVV-Venlo, who play a division higher in the Eredivisie, the top tier of Dutch football.

READ MORE: U-20 international Kian Donkers makes move to Dutch first division club >>>>

Despite a successful trial stint at Brentford, Supyk was unable to secure a permanent deal due to the club not being able to create a squad spot for him before the closing of the January transfer deadline.

Supyk has returned to New Zealand for the upcoming domestic season, signing for national champions Wellington Olympic.

READ MORE: Age group internationals sign for Wellington Olympic ahead of Charity Cup >>>>

He aims to return to the UK when the transfer window re-opens in the northern summer.

Reflecting on their experiences so far in Europe, the trio offer advice to others keen to follow them.

“Self-belief is super important”, says Donkers.

“Make sure not to get discouraged and to chase what you want. A year and a half ago, I was playing domestic club football and for my school. Now I’m playing at a pro club in the Netherlands. It can change so fast.”

Boon: “You need to take every opportunity you get. If you find that you’re not getting opportunities, then you need to put yourself in a position where you’re going to be seen.

“Always train as hard as you can because you never know who might be watching.”

Supyk: “Being yourself is super important. Don’t change for anyone; just remain confident and true to yourself. Keeping your mind grounded is super helpful. Don’t make it feel like the opportunity is the be-all and end-all.”

Matias Gidden

Matias Gidden is a Canterbury-based university student studying sport management and journalism. He has also played football at a high level for 10+ years.

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