Totori determined to shine
© Foto-net

Benjamin Totori emerged from the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007 as one of Waitakere United's most eye-catching performers. It was enough to earn the pacy Solomon Islands striker a professional contract in the USA with Portland Timbers, the first player from his country to hit the big time outside of the Southern Hemisphere.

But tragedy struck just two games into Totori's American adventure, when he sustained a knee injury in a match with Montreal Impact that would end his stint. It was a hammer blow for the charismatic forward.

"The American League was a different style, a different atmosphere than matches here in Oceania. Everything went well in the Montreal match. I nearly scored in the last minute of the game. I even saw a Solomon Islands flag in the match against Montreal, it was great lift. Then I hurt my knee in injury time.

"I recovered in three weeks but then I trained and played two exhibition games against a Mexican team, and in the second game the injury flared up again and it was no good. It took me the rest of the season to recuperate," Totori recalls.

Waitakere United President Rex Dawkins and coach Chris Milicich were only too happy to have Totori back in their ranks to help rebuild his career. Both feel Totori will be a better footballer for the experience.

Against Sepahan, we tried our best against a very professional team and lost. That's football. That's life.
Waitakere United striker Benjamin Totori reflects on his team's performance at last year's FIFA Club World Cup.

Big following
"The first thing that has changed is Benjamin's personality, he is more outgoing and communicative, and that goes a long way to becoming a better footballer," says Dawkins. "Portland Timbers have said that he left behind a lot of disappointed fans - he had quite a big following developing there. I believe Benjamin is more than capable of going back to that level."

Totori shares his president's view, and the affable striker is complimentary of the club's handling of his return to New Zealand. "Waitakere kept in touch during my recovery, and they were happy to take me back. Hopefully I can repay them for everything in Japan," Totori said.

The memory of the first four minutes of last year's horror start with Sepahan still makes Totori wince 12 months later. It was a traumatic start to any match, but even more so at a FIFA event.

"I want to give the FIFA Club World Cup my best shot this time, and help prove that our game with Sepahan last year was not the real Waitakere. Our aim must be to improve, and playing Adelaide could help us a lot because of the rivalry. "

Totori says that despite his giving the match his best shot, Sepahan were just too quick for the part-timers from New Zealand. "I think we are looking for an improved performance all round this year. Against Sepahan, we tried our best against a very professional team and lost. That's football. That's life.

"We finished the match better and scored a goal, and that is a positive to remember. We had twenty good minutes in the second half, which is important. Sepahan used a different style and there were big differences in fitness and experience. Our aim must be simple - to improve and play better this time."