Jasmine Pereira interview: Ferns starlet kicking the interlude with retrospective shine
Regardless of age, certain qualities in players and in people will always have their value, and it is a sentiment that rings true with New Zealand international Jasmine Pereira, just like the vintage vibe running through the soundtrack to the young forward’s journey to date.
As the FIFA World Cup took place in Canada over the summer, people everywhere had the chance to get involved and enjoy what was undoubtedly a celebration of women’s football. From a more detailed and analytical point of view, it was also an opportunity to see the current progress of the teams on their respective journeys.
Each side who took part in the competition had their own level of experience to draw upon and expectation to manage. For New Zealand, head coach Tony Readings was taking the team in the second major tournament of his tenure, after guiding the Football Ferns in the London Olympics in 2012.
Along with the experienced heads to steady the ship and lead, all young players need that opportunity to make their mark and the Ferns certainly have their blend in this regard. For West Auckland-born Jasmine Pereira, who was one of the youngest names in the squad, her progress has accelerated in the last year or so.
Having travelled to various places on different continents with the national team as they took on reputable sides like France and Norway in the process, the culmination was securing her place in Canada. Striker Hannah Wilkinson and former defender and captain Rebecca Smith have shared their insight on here on how important music is to the Ferns’ team dynamic, and for Jasmine, who only recently turned 19, she has felt right at home amid this setting.
“The Ferns locker room has an awesome pre-game vibe,” she began. “Pretty much everyone is up dancing and singing along to the music, especially when the favourites come on.”
“The girls really love to dance and no one’s afraid to show their moves. I love this kind of locker room pre-game; it helps me relax a bit before the game.”
A forward often utilised in wide areas with the senior side, ‘Jazz’ has also been involved with the development team alongside players like 18-year-old midfielder Daisy Cleverley, who also made the squad for the World Cup. Jazz has a Samoan heritage and she describes the relevance of music to her background and how important it is to her from one day to the next.
“Personally, I listen to such a huge variety of genres and artists, but overall absolute favourite would have to be old school r&b; artists like Lauryn Hill, R. Kelly, Usher etc. Recently, artists I have added to my iPod are Major Lazer, Peking Duk, Fetty Wap.
“Music is such a big part of my culture and my everyday life. I absolutely love having music playing whenever I can.”
Growing up with three older brothers in Jared, Daniel and Jordan, Jazz definitely had some rough and tumble to contend with. That physical prowess is something that can now be seen when she takes to the field and is a considerable attribute to have on her side, so maybe being the test pilot for wrestling moves from her siblings was worthwhile training after all!
Jazz has always shared a close bond with her family and music is one of the elements that connects her to these kinds of memories. Songs can be painted into our recollections of a certain time and for those of us who heard specific bands or artists when we were young, those voices tend to stick in the memory.
For Jazz, it is Ali Campbell’s reggae-tinged vocals that take her back to part of her childhood, surrounded by her mother Danira, late father Joseph (who she credits as a major inspiration to this day), her siblings and a number of other family members, as she explains.
“I think my first official album that I download was UB40, surprisingly! I was only about 12 years old but because I had these songs always playing at family barbecues etc. I just loved them and had to have them on my iPod.
“When I was growing up I listened to a lot of old music that my mum and dad were listening to; artists like Van Morrison, UB40, Paul Simon.”
Even if she had seen no game time during the competition, just being exposed to what goes into a team’s preparation and environment at a World Cup would have been of huge benefit to Jazz. As it transpired, she did get to be part of the action, featuring in two of New Zealand’s group games.
In the opening clash with the Netherlands, which was decided by a superb Lieke Martens strike for the Dutch, Jazz came on for ex-Liverpool forward Sarah Gregorius in the second half, joining Amber Hearn and Hannah Wilkinson in the attack. After that appearance in Edmonton, she also got to sample what it feels like to feature in front of a fervent home crowd at a World Cup as she entered what finished as a goalless draw with former Ferns coach John Herdman’s Canada.
This was her second dose of playing time in quick succession at the Commonwealth Stadium and certainly an occasion to savour, regardless of the game’s absence of goals. Of course the Ferns were targeting the knockout phase and exiting before the last 16 was not what they had wished for, but there is always something to take forward from such experiences.
So many weeks spent together for players and staff gives great possibility for harnessing togetherness and this is an area a team captain should always be mindful of. For the Ferns, their player with the armband is a Chicago Red Stars defender who certainly has the leadership qualities required, and even if it was only in a small way, music enabled her to help keep the spirit positive, according to Jazz.
“For our locker room music, the person that was in charge was our captain Abby Erceg, but the music choices were from everyone in the team. Whenever someone wanted a song put on the locker room playlist we would send it to Abby so we could have it playing.
“I have been DJ for a few teams and I love it, but I generally get the team’s input on different songs to chuck onto the playlist.”
At just 25, Abby Erceg has already surpassed 100 international caps, and along with another 25-year-old centurion at the back in Ria Percival, she has been on hand to set the kind of example youngsters like Jazz can benefit from.
“Ria, Abby and other players have really helped younger ones like myself become better and more critical players. They set standards and always keep everyone accountable.
“Off the pitch, Ria is a really good friend of mine and someone I can always go and talk to. Her and other older players help with their experiences in tough and stressful times.
“They have helped me become a better player and more critical in my play. They help me learn more and are massive with the amount of caps and tournaments they have played in.”
Back in February 2013, in the final run-up to her official retirement from the game, Ferns skipper Bex Smith recalled in her interview on this site how the younger players were once given an initiation challenge of singing on the team bus. Now a fully-fledged international player herself, has Jazz ever had to take on such a testing scenario?
“I can’t say I have sung for the team but I’m the team member that is known for walking around the hotel singing and dancing to the song that’s stuck in my head that day! I’m not the best singer but I love dancing.
“I absolutely love music and can’t help it!”
Jazz can probably rest easily now knowing that she has won more than enough caps for the seniors to avoid being classed as a newcomer and potentially having to face an initiation. However, as she sings for fun, perhaps it wouldn’t be the most daunting challenge in the world for her!
Another attacking player on the team who enjoys this way of expressing herself is striker Hannah Wilkinson. Last March, she was the one to feature on here, sharing her Marvin Gaye song cover and revealing her relationship with music in a variety of ways.
She is another relatively young player with admirable experience on the international scene and the Jimi Hendrix fan passes the test for talent in Jazz’s mind.
“I haven’t experienced any of my teammates performing in front of the team but I roomed with Hannah Wilkinson and she’s an amazing guitar player and singer.”
Having watched her play for the Under-17 national team in 2012, Ferns coach Tony Readings was suitably impressed by what Jazz brings to the game. He believes she has that certain something to succeed in the sport and has stated his admiration for the intensity and the desire to attack with purpose she displays.
One of those who shared the field with her in Canada is a Ferns player who has played her football in Australia and Germany in recent years. The number six to Jazz’s number eight during the World Cup, the defender is the one she would choose to take it back with if she was ever given the task of putting together a song cover.
“I think the person I would do a duet with is Rebekah Stott and our song choice would definitely have to be ‘Fill Me Up’ by The Temptations. We’ve walked around a few hotels singing that song together.”
After Jazz moved up to high school and attended Avondale College in Auckland, she had a decision to make over whether to dedicate her athletic endeavours to netball or football. With significantly fewer girls putting themselves forward to sign up for the football team her mind was made up to go down the less popular route, believing she could get somewhere playing the game with the ball at her feet.
Starting out as a goalkeeper, the thought of her representing New Zealand as a forward player would have taken quite some predicting at that point. However, not so many years later, she was lining up for her country at the 2014 Under-20 World Cup in Canada in what turned out to be a taster for the main event with the senior squad this summer.
With the Under-20s, Jazz reached the quarter-finals and got to play in Montreal, Moncton and Toronto along the way. In the group phase, New Zealand were beaten by a France team featuring midfielder Claire Lavogez, who would go on to represent Les Bleus at the senior tournament, cruelly missing the decisive penalty in the quarter-final shootout with Germany.
Wins against Paraguay and Costa Rica saw the Kiwis progress, although they were ultimately eliminated by a Nigeria side led by the form of Golden Ball winner and tournament top scorer Asisat Oshoala, who now plays for Liverpool. Tournament experience is incredibly valuable for any player, so what did Jazz feel the most significant aspects were to learn from being at the competition at senior level?
“The biggest thing I think I have taken away from this World Cup is the challenge of other aspects surrounding us playing. Also, not worrying about things that we cannot change and making sure we take every advantage to achieve our potential as a team.”
This year and last have taken Jazz to previously uncharted territory in her young career and back in April she was testing herself against world champions in waiting. This was in the Ferns’ match with the USA in St. Louis (a 4-0 loss) and there are not so many people at her age who can say they have taken on such players, and with 35,817 there to see it.
On the club side, Jazz is continuing to take part in competitive play, while also immersing herself in another athletic setting on a regular basis.
“Outside of the Ferns, I have been playing in the women’s league here in Auckland, playing for Three Kings United. At the moment, I have been spending a lot of time with my family and friends, occasionally helping my cousin at his gym, Ludus Magnus, in central Auckland.
“I am still going to the gym myself, working on my strength and conditioning.”
Plenty of players go through their entire career without ever getting to appear at the most prestigious tournaments. Still yet to enter her twenties, Jazz already has this accomplishment secured and has all sorts of possibilities ahead of her in the game.
It will be genuinely intriguing to see where her path leads her but the level-headed quality she possesses is as valuable as it is endearing. We put the finishing touches to this interview by getting an interesting last glimpse into some of the characters Jazz holds in high regard.
Whether retired or still active, each player who features on here is asked to cast a glance over all those they have worked with in their career and to choose four to go alongside them in a fantasy 5-a-side team. It is up to the player to decide on why they select each one and of course it can be difficult to narrow it down to just a few.
Here is Jazz to introduce her starters, and as she says, it could easily be any of her fellow national team players, so the option of unlimited subs may be a good choice!
“For my small-sided team I would have…Erin Nayler, as she is an amazing shot-stopper and goalkeeper to work with. Ria Percival as a defender, as she has such a strong work ethic and is a great defender.
“Annalie Longo as a midfielder – she is amazing with the ball at her feet and very tricky. Sarah Gregorius, as she is a skilled attacker who is very good with the ball at her feet.
“I would easily have the whole of the Ferns in my small team!”
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