It is not particularly uncommon to hear of a new-born named in honour a famous footballer. What is perhaps rare, though, is for a youngster growing up under such a moniker to develop into a professional footballer. That is the case, however, for Louis Fenton. Or to give the 20-year-old his full name: Louis Ferenc Puskas Fenton.
Perhaps even more unusual is that Fenton doesn’t hail from Budapest, as his middle names – in deference of the Hungary and Real Madrid legend – might suggest. Fenton was in fact born and raised in Rugby-obsessed New Zealand, where his middle name – a creation of a football-mad father and Hungarian mother – was, to those uneducated in the round-ball game, invariably a source of intrigue or good-natured ribbing.
Now Fenton is on the verge of appearing on the global stage at next week’s FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013, where he will likely be a focal point of the team’s attack. Fenton is just one of a handful of professional players in Chris Milicich’s 21-man roster. Other than five players based in England and one in Australia, all are domiciled at home with only Fenton and Tyler Boyd turning out in the colours of Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand’s lone professional club.
Upstaging Del Piero
A rapid rise from the local Wellington league, via a stint in Australia’s second tier, was completed in spectacular fashion on the opening round of the recently completed A-League season. And Fenton’s goalscoring debut would surely have made his more famous namesake proud. Not only did he score with spectacular diving header, Fenton also managed to steal a share of the headlines from a far more seasoned and well-known name making his A-League debut, Alessandro Del Piero.
Fenton told FIFA.com with typical Kiwi understatement: “At the time I just wanted to enjoy the moment, and not put too much pressure on myself. In the end it turned out pretty good. It was a great opportunity to learn from [Del Piero] first hand. Some of the stuff he does at 38 is unreal. I always like to watch him to see what I can do to improve my game.”
Fenton’s father is, as one might imagine, a football fanatic who played at senior level in Wellington. And the sport is not only in the bloodlines and on the birth certificate. The Fenton clan also count New Zealand’s all-time top goalscorer Vaughan Coveny as a family friend.
Aiming to continue Kiwi progress
New Zealand has made significant progress at junior level over recent years. The FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 saw the nation reach the knockout stage of a tournament for the first time, while at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 they were in the hunt for progression until the final moments of the group stage, before ultimately suffering a 1-0 loss against eventual runners-up Portugal.
Now Fenton and his team-mates have set their sights on maintaining that momentum. The Junior All Whites' first match at Turkey 2013 is against Uzbekistan on 23 June, before facing Uruguay three days later and rounding out their group campaign against Croatia on 29 June.
“Recent New Zealand teams’ performances have given us confident,” said the fleet-forward attacker. “We feel that we have a better group of players than we have had in previous World Cups, so we are hopeful of doing well and being the best-ever New Zealand team.
“It looks like a hard group but I don’t think in a World Cup you ever get an easy group. We have at least avoided a really big nation like a Brazil or Argentina, though there are quality teams here [in the group], but by the same token we are confident.
“It will be my first World Cup so looking forward to the experience, one of the biggest tournaments in the world, and hopefully in front of some big crowds against some good players. And also hopefully do well personally. I’m also really looking forward to going to Turkey. I have heard it is a really beautiful country so hopefully we get to squeeze in some sightseeing on our days off.”
Reprising Puskas’s prolific goalscoring on the world stage might be a big ask for the young Wellingtonian. But whatever happens over the coming weeks in Turkey, Fenton’s footballing future looks bright.