Ask any mum to describe their proudest moment when it comes to their son or daughter, and there will undoubtedly be a pause as they struggle to think of just one defining memory among a lifetime of accomplishments. That’s what happened when the Weekly sat down with Pip Sail, Georgina Ridenton and Liz Peters. For the proud mums of talented football players Oli Sail (19), Matt Ridenton (19) and Sam Brotherton (18), picking a single moment of pride is no easy task.
“It’s tricky,” begins Georgina (56). “For me, I’d say when Matt played in the Under-17 World Cup, made his debut for the All Whites last year and was voted Most Valuable Player in the Nike All Asia Football Camp, which brings together the top 60 U-17 players in Asia.”
Liz (48) agrees, “When Sam was listed in the last All Whites trip to Korea. He’d been like a bear with a sore head for hours because he was waiting to hear if he got in, so when he did, I was thrilled!”
“Oli didn’t get into the U-17 World Cup,” Pip (50) adds, “but [coach] Darren Bazeley told him, ‘Every time you get knocked back, you have returned harder and stronger.’ That was a proud moment.”
The trio can now add playing in the Fifa U-20 World Cup to their sons’ list of achievements. It’s been a long road for these teens to get them to this moment, and it hasn’t been without blood, sweat and tears. After two years of playing herself, sports physiotherapist Pip coached her young son and his brothers, Tim (16) and Nic (15), on Saturday mornings, with the aid of football videos.
“No matter what I was trying to teach them, Oli would say, ‘You show us, Mum, ‘cause you know everything!’”
Although overlooked by Auckland Grammar School for a position on their football team, Oli’s talents were later spotted by Georgina’s husband, former All Whites coach Mike Ridenton. Oli gained notoriety for his skill as a goalkeeper and is now a regular player with the Wellington Phoenix. While both Oli and Matt had Mike as a mentor, humble midfielder Matt didn’t find his passion for the game until later on – the fellow Wellington Phoenix player entered professional football at age 16.
“Most kids run in a pack when they play,” tells Georgina. “Wee Matt didn’t – he used to stand out. He had game intelligence even then!”
In the Brotherton household, both Liz and former husband Simon were actively involved in Sam’s career from day one. “Simon and I were midget division conveners – we put the goals out every Saturday morning at 7am, having spent Friday nights with a bottle of red wine and a whiteboard, working out what team would play when.”
As well as being a whiz on the field, Sam has also earned a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, where he will play football from August. But the boys’ highs haven’t been without great lows. Oli’s U-17 World Cup dreams came to an end after he ruptured a ligament in his knee.
“I thought he was close to chucking it in,” Pip recalls. “It was hard for me as a mum and a physio, because I knew what the injury was like. I had to control how long he needed to stand down. It was really hard to make that call – I knew he’d be devastated.”
Matt also sustained a knee injury from a dodgy tackle earlier this year, almost ending his U-20 World Cup dream. While it scared mum Georgina, it was dad Mike that it hit the hardest. “He was just so angry,” she says, “that he could barely speak!”
Fortunately for Liz, Sam is injury-free, but has suffered other disappointments – notably when he didn’t make the final U-17 squad. However, missing out on a place enabled Sam to travel to the UK to say goodbye to his grandmother, who was terminally ill. “He told her, ‘Granny, I wouldn’t have been able to be here if I’d made the team, so it’s all good.’”
As the boys play out their World Cup campaign, the three mums will be frantically helping out wherever possible, including stocking up the cupboards.
“They eat a huge amount,” exclaims Pip. “Oli will eat $200 worth of food a week.”
But there are a a few perks of the job. “We’ve seen the world with Matt,” says Georgina. “And the game becomes your social life. You make lifelong friendships out of it.”
For more information about the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, visit fifa.com/u20worldcup