Trusts Stadium in West Auckland is a far cry from the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, but this is the launch pad that 26-year-old Brazilian midfielder Adriano Pimenta has chosen to rekindle his professional career.
Pimenta sustained an injury with Yokohama FC in the J-League in 2007 that left the creative maestro out of action for the rest of the season, with two attempts at a comeback thwarted by the closure of the transfer window in Brazil. That was when Oceania champions Waitakere United came calling with the opportunity to return to Japan and play in the FIFA Club World Cup. Pimenta recognised a chance and seized it, and he disagrees that it is a step down from what he is used to.
"I played in the J-League for two years, and I can't wait to go back and experience the country again, I love it there. I feel I can play in Japan for another year after this experience, and that is my personal goal. But coming to Waitakere cannot be called the ‘wrong club' for me; it is a chance for everyone in the team to show what they can do in a very good competition. I am motivated to play for Waitakere by my love for football, nothing else."
Pimenta is aware Waitakere United will face a tough challenge against Adelaide United, but remains optimistic the club can make an impression at Japan 2008. "Everybody at the club knows we will face a very hard game in Japan, and maybe the difference between our team and the next level will be very high. But we have to be positive: in football you can get one chance, one goal, and then you can achieve a result. I can't wait for the FIFA Club World Cup. It is a great opportunity for the club and for me as a professional player."
Pimenta will not be the only player from Waitakere United with a professional pedigree. He points to the experience of former Premier League pair Neil Emblen and Danny Hay as key men in the Oceania champions' squad. "The team relies heavily on Danny and Neil. Both are good players, possess good strength, are very experienced, excellent in the air and can play the ball well, and have good qualities as leaders as well. Danko Koprivcic is also a strong player who can hold possession well, and the pace of Benjamin Totori is amazing. I think these are the best qualities of the team."
With the New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC) only two weeks into its shortened season because of financial problems, Pimenta says the only way for Oceanian teams to improve is to train more often. "I think the players need to train more here to increase the technical quality. The game is based on strength and power, but for me there are also very good players here with potential."
Pimenta may have been welcomed in New Zealand with open arms, but the Brazilian was soon under the spotlight after he missed a penalty in an O-league match with cross-town rivals Auckland City FC. The match finished 2-2, but Pimenta was philosophical about his miss.
"I missed a penalty in the O-League match with Auckland City FC, but I am not afraid of responsibility. When I played for FC Thun in Switzerland I took a penalty against Ajax and scored in the Champions League. I am a confident person and believe in myself, and I always accept responsibility in these situations."
A widely travelled footballer, Pimenta has expressed admiration for the qualities of his new home. "New Zealand is a beautiful country, my wife enjoys it very much and we have a nice apartment in the city, it's wonderful. I think New Zealand is like a paradise."