Following her second World Cup with New Zealand this year, Rosie White’s career in European football has begun to take flight with Liverpool Ladies, ushering in a brand new side to a personal track laden with memories from her college days.
One of the most special characteristics associated with the women’s game is the amount of intriguing and sometimes incredible stories that have accompanied its players. Everyone has their own background details to their journey and this summer’s World Cup showcased so many of the varying personalities that permeate women’s football.
Representing New Zealand at the tournament was Rosie White, coming off the back of a career-best season as a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the U.S. collegiate game. Despite the form she had enjoyed in 2014, Rosie still headed to Canada with uncertainty over where her career and life would be taking her in the months to come.
The Auckland-born attacking player turned 22 this summer and in July it was announced that she would be joining reigning FA Women’s Super League champions Liverpool. Getting the chance to represent the Reds is a big deal, although Rosie was anything but plucked from obscurity.
Aside from going to two World Cups and the 2012 Olympic Games with her country, she won the prestigious NCAA Championship with UCLA in December 2013. Music is a powerful backdrop for many teams when it comes to helping push their unity to a higher and louder level and it was not only on the field where Rosie’s Bruins liked to make some noise, as she found one day through a California-born defender.
“My favourite memory is when Belden Long, a teammate and good friend at UCLA, voluntarily sang/yelled an unedited ‘Thinking of You’ by Kesha on the bus microphone in front of our whole team and coaching staff.”
The UCLA heritage in women’s soccer is undeniable. The World Cup-winning U.S. squad this year, led by former Bruins coach Jill Ellis, contained Sydney Leroux and Lauren Holiday who wore the blue and gold in college, while current UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell is an ex-National Team player herself.
Numerous Bruins have gone on to play professionally through the years and the National Women’s Soccer League is currently well populated in that regard. One of those players has made a strong impression in her rookie year, helping the Washington Spirit to the upcoming playoffs, and the defender quickly comes to mind for Rosie when she thinks back to some of the sounds that lit the fuse in those UCLA days.
“DJ Meg, Megan Oyster, who was my roommate, was often the designated DJ of the locker room. There were definitely a few others that got in there as well.
“One song that always reminds me of that team is ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman’ (Shania Twain).”
It is easy to look at someone’s first professional club and to mark that as the beginning of their career. However, that could mean discounting a vital spell in their sporting and personal development, which is undoubtedly true with those who have enjoyed notable careers at collegiate level, such as Rosie.
Ahead of her Liverpool move she had identified a switch to Europe as a step she was eager to make in the game and her prospects were certainly boosted after a prosperous 2014 season at UCLA. The year brought her highest ever total for goals (seven) and assists (six), making her the team’s third-top scorer for the campaign.
A sociology major, she graduated earlier this year and as much as her college adventure was an important platform for her career as an athlete it was also unforgettable for so many other reasons as well.
“I look back and realise what an amazing experience it was. I loved going to university there and being part of that team.
“I made some of the best friends I have ever had and experiences that I will never forget there. I really bonded with the grade that I came into UCLA with; they are such an amazing and talented group of people.
“I still keep in really close contact with Sam Mewis and Belden Long, and I know that I will be friends with a lot of those girls for the rest of my life.”
As Rosie has recalled, Belden Long’s impromptu vocal performance stuck in the memory, and Western New York Flash midfielder Sam Mewis is a great example of a player who connects strongly with music. Exploring that relationship is the idea behind each of the interviews on here, regardless of the player’s gender, nationality, or the amount of years they may have had in the game.
Raising the tempo and volume on the speakers before a game can fire someone up perfectly as they prepare to step out for kick-off. For Rosie, her listening choices in general are varied, although it is often the mellow vibe that wins through when she is away from football.
“I love music; I will put music on at any opportunity. Most of the time I’ll be listening to relaxing music along the lines of Amos Lee, John Mayer, Angus & Julia Stone, that type of music, but depending on what mood I’m in I’ll listen to just about anything.”
Scoring on her first Liverpool start, in the 2-1 home loss to Notts County in July, Rosie netted her second for the club with a chip in the 2-2 draw at Sunderland last month. It is clear to see just how well she has integrated into the fold, settling seamlessly in amongst a group of considerable characters.
It is 19-year-old homegrown midfielder Katie Zelem who tends to choose the tracks for the team’s pre-game playlist, while American keeper Libby Stout and Icelandic midfielder Katrin Omarsdottir are pretty nifty on the guitar. Music often surfaces when the team are together, in one way or another, although Rosie did not have a singing initiation to perform when she joined. However, she did have to face that most gruelling of challenges as a teenager on the New Zealand team.
“Yes I had to sing in front of the Ferns for initiation. It was horrible for me and for their ears.
“I can’t even remember what song I sang. I was so embarrassed and shy at the time I’ve blocked it from my memory!”
Rosie’s first senior international cap was won in January 2009 against China, when she was just 15. During the previous year, she had given a tantalising glimpse into the potential at her disposal as she hit a hat-trick against Colombia in the Under-17 World Cup on home soil, before remarkably repeating the feat eighteen days later at the Under-20 tournament against hosts Chile.
She was to feature again in the Under-20 World Cup, in Germany in 2010, and the competition proved very significant in her career. On the field, she scored the Ferns’ only goal of the tournament in the loss to Brazil but it was during this period that she had her first meeting with B.J. Snow, who was U.S. Under-20 assistant coach.
Snow, whose wife Lindsay Tarpley was an interviewee on here recently, was UCLA’s assistant at the time (to 2015 World Cup-winning coach Jill Ellis) and would move up to the head role for the Bruins in the months to come. Rosie’s meeting with him eventually led to her scholarship at UCLA and in 2011 she represented the Ferns’ senior side at the World Cup, again in Germany.
In 2012, she was part of the group that took the Kiwis into the quarter-final at the London Olympics, which was the first time the Ferns had reached the knockout phase of a major tournament. This June, she played in the most keenly anticipated spectacle the women’s game has ever seen, featuring in New Zealand’s draws with Canada and China, the former of which attracted a crowd of 35,544 in Edmonton.
In addition to former captain Rebecca Smith in 2013 and striker Hannah Wilkinson last year, young forward Jasmine Pereira has also represented the Ferns in her own music/football interview on here. She gave some insight into the team’s music habits, describing how skipper Abby Erceg is one of those who steps forward with the changing room song choices, although Rosie explains why they like to spread the responsibility around.
“We all have an input into the pre-game playlist. Everyone’s suggestions are welcome, although not always appreciated, but we’ve decided it’s too much pressure to designate it to anyone, so there is a playlist that gets put on shuffle to avoid too much stress.”
As well as facing England at the 2011 World Cup, Rosie has of course moved here this year. She did however have her own link to the country long ago, with a certain group getting more than its share of airtime in her household.
“I grew up listening to my parents’ music. ‘The Very Best of Sting & The Police’ was the most popular album.
“I must have listened to that album 500 times but I still love it. It brings back good memories.”
The prelude to UCLA’s College Cup glory two years ago was the shootout victory over Virginia in the semi. Rosie, who concluded her college career with 17 goals and 12 assists, put away the winning penalty in the shootout to send the Bruins to the final showdown with FSU. The Championship was secured with Kodi Lavrusky’s goal in extra-time as she slipped Megan Oyster’s incisive through ball home.
For all its enjoyable moments, college life also brings its share of pressures and commitments, and that is certainly true for athletes. Rosie once spent just shy of a fortnight in Switzerland with New Zealand, during which time they beat Brazil and China, before heading back to UCLA and then straight on to Tucson for a game. Amanda Cromwell, Rosie’s first female coach and a gold medal winner with the U.S. at the 1996 Olympics, was always understanding of her national team commitments, recognising that they were opportunities not to pass up.
Getting to stand on the field as your country’s anthem rings out is an incredible honour and it is an experience Rosie has been able to have on many occasions. Back at UCLA, it was of course ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ that would be heard and a Bruins defender even performed it before the game. This was the player Rosie chose alongside her fellow Kiwi when asked which career teammates she would select if she was to ever record a song cover.
“I would choose Alyssa Alarab from UCLA and Hannah Wilkinson from the Ferns to do a duet together while I listened.”
The recent World Cup was the latest tournament in which Rosie has worn the number 13 for the Ferns and it was also the one she had at UCLA. The significance of this choice is that it was the number her older brother used to wear in water polo, before her younger brother did the same.
She is carrying on the tradition again for Liverpool, so there is always that small reminder of home and her family whenever she appears on the field. Although the WSL title-holding Reds are 6th in the table as we near the season’s end they have the quarter-final of the Continental Cup away to Bristol Academy on Sunday September 13th to look forward to.
There is also the two-legged UEFA Champions League tie with Italian side Brescia to come next month at the round of 32 and aside from getting amongst the scorers there has been more than a little for Rosie to feel happy about since she arrived in England.
“I have really enjoyed it so far. It’s been a good, new and fresh challenge for me.
“The team and coaching staff have been unbelievably great. They have been so helpful and kind and I feel really comfortable and welcomed into the environment.”
Other sports and activities, such as wakeboarding and surfing, have come into play over the years for Rosie, but the beautiful game has always enjoyed a higher place in her affections than any other. With success in the college game, experience of multiple major international tournaments, and now the beginning of a professional career all to her name, there is a fair amount to reflect on despite still being in her early twenties.
“Football has given me countless opportunities around the world and it has taught me so much about being independent and staying true to yourself. It has shaped who I am and I am so thankful that I get to actually play the sport that I love as a career now.”
It seems so often that there are an infinite amount of factors affecting a competitive game of football. However, when all’s said and done, it is the uncomplicated beauty and freedom that truly makes playing it what it is.
With that in mind, how about if Rosie was to take it away from the pursuit of points and trophies and to choose her own team for a 5-a-side match, with any of her career teammates eligible to be on her side? Rather than being asked to select the outright best they have ever worked with, this regular final question on here is about letting the player express whichever reasons they decide upon.
Here were the four she went with when put on the spot and it is an American/Kiwi combination that makes up the side…even if the U.S. girls have the numbers slightly in their favour!
“Sam Mewis – because she’s an awesome player. She would score lots of goals and work really hard and she’s one of my best friends.
“Sarah Killion – easily one of the smartest players I’ve played with. She would be the team brains, and her and Sam and I were a force to be reckoned with at UCLA.
“Annalie Longo – because she’s one of my favourite players and people. She would bring the flair.
“Libby Stout – because she’s my new flatmate and friend as well as a talented goalkeeper, so I’d have to pick her.”
Reigning Women’s Super League champions Liverpool Ladies play their home matches at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes with tickets priced at just £5 adults & £2.50 children/concessions.
The Reds’ final WSL home game of the season is with league leaders Chelsea on Saturday September 26th (5.30pm KO). You can purchase tickets here.
To catch each of these interviews, you can follow me: @chris_brookes
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