Almere City goalkeeper Michael Woud admitted that while a Netherlands youth call-up “tempted" him the choice to play for New Zealand was an “easy decision".
The 21-year-old has two caps for the All Whites since making his debut in 2018 and will be looking to feature more often after a great start to the season in the Dutch second tier.
On loan from Eredivisie side Willem II, Woud has been an ever-present in an Almere City team sitting second in the Eerste Divisie after 15 matches.
Having been eligible to play for the Netherlands and New Zealand, the former Sunderland goalkeeper received a call-up from the Netherlands under-20 side in 2018, but turned the offer down and committed himself to the country of his birth.
Speaking exclusively to Tribal Football, Woud said: “I was tempted, but when you play for the national team it comes down to your feeling. If you have a good feeling, like I do for New Zealand growing up there my whole life, you are going to pick New Zealand. I am playing for my country and the people and I feel more of a New Zealander than I feel Dutch. For me it was an easy decision, even though Holland is massive football country and it was a compliment to be asked."
When you think of New Zealand and sport, most will imagine Rugby Union and the three-time world cup winning All Blacks.
“Football is getting much bigger in New Zealand, bigger than people think," he said.
“Rugby will always be the biggest sport and that is understandable, but the age group teams are improving. There are more players coming out of New Zealand and it is not easy, because it is so far away and there are lot of sacrifices you have to make. It shows that New Zealanders can do it the best league in the world, the Premier League. Now you see Chris Wood scoring goals in the Premier League and it gives a lot of young New Zealanders that belief and motivation that it can be done."
Woud left the country in 2015 in order to join Sunderland after a successful trial and thinks that moving across to Europe can be advantageous for young players from New Zealand.
“I think going to Europe allows you to train in a professional environment and it is closer to a lot of clubs, so you will have more scouts watching you," he said.
“You are in a cut-throat situation which makes you mentally stronger, but you have to sacrifice a lot. Wellington Phoenix and the A-League can be a great stepping stone and you are able to play every week, and if you are good enough you can make the step."