Girl bosses who brunch is a series which seeks to celebrate the achievements of incredible Pacific women. All of my chats with the various girl bosses take place in a café and we discuss anything and everything ranging from their journey to success to how many people they pashed on the weekend (jokes, kind of). It is my hope that in sharing stories about successful women, this will inspire others to do better and be better.
When I was growing up, young girls were not really encouraged to play soccer. Netball was always the most obviously popular sport so most girls played netball. But not this young lady. Non-conforming badass Jazz Pereira, ditched the netball skirt for soccer boots instead. To be fair, she played every possible sport there was; netball, basketball, touch – everything. And of course, she excelled at every single one of them. But when she started high school, she was told that she needed to choose one sport to focus on and now as a Football Fern representing New Zealand at the Rio Olympics this year, she definitely doesn’t regret choosing soccer.
19 year old Jazz Pereira is Samoan/European and grew up in West Auckland. She comes from a very high achieving family, so her epic success as an athlete comes as no surprise. Her father played for the West Tigers and her cousins Rene and Joe Naufahu are no strangers to fans of Game of Thrones, Shortland Street, NPC Rugby and AnyoneWhoStalksAllTheCoolLudusPeopleOnInstagram. After getting over the initial shock of hearing about all the big dawgs Jazz hangs out with, she casually added, “Oh and Reuben is my mentor”. “Oh Reuben, who?”, I asked, trying to type this mysterious Ruben person’s last name onto my ‘Jazz Pereira interview’ word document. “Ruben Wiki”. Of course.
Although as successful as she is, Jazz is incredibly down to earth and humble about her achievements. I asked her about the moment she realized that she could make a name for herself in this sport, she laughed and said, “I haven’t really thought about that. I’ve always been told that I have the potential but I don’t know, I don’t really think about it too much. I’ve just been rolling with everything”. Even when she received the call from the manager of the Football Ferns telling her that she had been selected for the team going to the World Cup, she found it hard to believe. “I was actually so surprised because she called near the end of 2014 and that’s when I had really bad shins, it was the worst injury I’ve ever had. Then out of nowhere I was told that I was selected to play in the qualifiers for the World Cup. It was so random, so far left field. It was actually crazy. But after that tour, that’s when I thought, ‘Ok, I want to do this. I want to be in this team'”.
However, playing for the Football Ferns in the World Cup did not automatically guarantee her a spot in the Rio Olympics squad. She worked extremely hard to prove that she deserved a place on the team and it all paid off when her name was announced in the Rio team.”I felt so relieved. It was so tense before because you’re thinking, oh I don’t know if I’ll make it because you know, you’re not sure. But now I feel relieved that I actually made the team. I’m happy and so excited”. She has three things on her mind when she gets to Rio,”playing, smashing teams and winning games. Just want the team to bring out the best we can”.
As a professional high performance athlete, her routine is intense. “It’s a full time gig. I train five times a week and twice a day on Sundays. There’s a lot of specific strengthening for football like, agility, muscle, balance work and injury prevention”. It’s all worth it though because she genuinely loves the sport, “what I love the most about football is the freedom to play how I want to play, it’s quite an aggressive sport where you can just go hard. I love the physicality of the game and freedom to express yourself”.
As an unco and unfit Dorito eater, I wanted to know what kind of skills you need to be a good soccer player. “Ahh.. coordination” Jazz laughs. “Eye feet coordination is pretty big. It’s a pretty intense game where you have to be one of the fittest because there’s a lot of running. On average I do about 10 kms of nonstop sprinting per game. For someone to get to the position where I am or higher, you have to have the right attitude, that passion, that love for the game because your skill is only going to take you so far. You can be the best player in the world but if you don’t have the right drive and attitude then you’re going to go nowhere. When you have your bad days, your skill isn’t going to help you get past that.”
Jazz feels grateful to have the support of her family and friends. She is very close to her family, especially her brothers and counts herself lucky to be surrounded by amazing people. Her advice for all young women hoping to follow in her footsteps is, “Just go for it. Work hard and if you’ve got that dream to go and do it, you’ve got nothing to lose. Break the stereotypes of any kind of sport like I’ve done. Don’t stop, don’t look back”.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Jazz! You are our favourite striker and we cannot wait to see you smash it in Rio. So proud of you and we’ll be cheering for you all the way!