At 38, Jenny Bindon is not only the oldest member of the New Zealand squad, she is also the second-oldest player ever to take part in a FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Only Brazil’s Meg, who was 39 when she appeared at the 1995 edition in Sweden, has surpassed the Kiwi's achievment.
“I don’t think age is all that important,” said the experienced goalkeeper in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “I once had a room-mate who was just 17 and my current one is 24. The girls keep me young – they’re really fantastic. Without them it would be tough, but they make it so easy for me. Sometimes I forget how old I actually am!”
Far more interesting than her age is how Bindon came to play football in the first instance: “I may be the eldest, but I’m certainly not the most experienced player in the team. I’m actually a basketball player turned footballer. I’d never planned on playing at a FIFA tournament or even for the New Zealand national team, but I’ve learned that you should grasp every opportunity with both hands."
We’re the outsiders at this tournament but we’ll be doing our utmost to seize this opportunity.
"We all get chances in life, but some people are too afraid or nervous to make the most of them. I had the chance to play football for New Zealand and I took it. This World Cup is already my second. I also played at the Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing and hopefully we can qualify for the next Olympics in London too.”
After losing their opening match of Germany 2011 against Japan, the Football Ferns have their work cut out ahead of their second group game against England. Nonetheless, Bindon insists her younger colleagues, many of whom are taking part in their first major tournament, can handle the pressure: “We’re united as a team and very well-organised. Perhaps we deal with tension in a different way to other sides. We’re responsible for the pressure surrounding us and I think the team understands. We’re the outsiders at this tournament but we’ll be doing our utmost to seize this opportunity.”
‘The Cinderella team’
Bindon’s considerable life experience is often beneficial to the younger members of the squad: “Sometimes I just know when a player needs an arm round her shoulder. It’s like a mother’s instinct – I have a six-year-old son myself. Sometimes people just need a hug, and they do the same for me too.”
Indeed, the team spirit within the New Zealand camp is second to none and stretches beyond the confines of the Ferns' dressing room. “James Bannatyne, one of the All Whites (New Zealand men’s national team) goalkeepers is a great help. I’m often in contact with U-17 coach Aaron McFarland too. We get support from the coaches of all the different junior teams. It helps us to grow stronger and stronger.”
The veteran shot-stopper concluded the interview with a look ahead to tomorrow’s clash with the Three Lionesses: “The pressure is obviously on England. We have a chance and we’ll be doing our best to take it. It’s going to be an exciting game and I’m looking forward to being on the pitch. The statistics say that we’re the outsiders, but that doesn’t bother us. At every World Cup there’s always a Cinderella team and I hope that this time around it’ll be us!”