Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
- Olivia Chance set for first Olympic Games
- Prominent figure in New Zealand’s midfield in recent years
- “To be in the Olympic Games is the dream I have always wanted.”
Olivia Chance is on the verge of achieving a lifelong dream. The New Zealand midfielder has dim memories of watching the Olympic Games as a young child, but what was always clear was that to feature in the multi-sport event was an athletes’ pinnacle.
“I have always wanted to be involved in the Olympics,” Chance told FIFA.com. “Probably more so than the World Cup, which some might find interesting, but I think the whole [Olympic] atmosphere is something you will always remember. It is the dream that I have always wanted.
“I saw someone point out said recently: ‘You can be a world champion but that might only last for a year, whereas you will be an Olympian forever.’”
Chance has become a regular in the heart of the Football Ferns’ midfield in recent years and was an ever-present for the team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™. With an incredible work-rate and an eye for goal from long-range, the 27-year-old is an important cog in the Kiwis’ machine.
Driven by a dream
Five years ago, Chance missed the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament and set about improving. A few weeks after the fireworks quelled over Rio skies, Chance made the move as far from New Zealand as imaginable, signing for Iceland heavyweights Breidablik. There followed spells at Everton, Bristol City, Sheffield United and, most recently, Brisbane Roar.
Twelve months of uncertainly following the initial postponement of Tokyo 2020 has created a challenging environment for athletes, Chance included.
“We had to adjust a lot trying to figure out if the Olympics were going to go ahead,” she said. “Even now you see negative headlines, maybe saying it won’t go ahead, which is hard for an athlete. You have to really zone out on that side, and try and fully focus so you can have your best preparation.
“I have become a lot more focussed. In fact, I think being away from partner has helped, because being apart for eight months isn’t something you really want to do, so I need to make it worth it.”
Chasing games and goals
New Zealand face a rare challenge heading into the fast-looming Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. Due to the pandemic, the global spread of their squad and other factors, the Football Ferns have not taken the field since early 2020.
Drawn alongside USA, Sweden and Australia, their challenge at Tokyo 2020 could barely be tougher. “We are definitely behind compared to other countries and I think we might not know how far behind we are until it is too late,” said Chance.
“Some time together in Tokyo will hopefully close the gap a little bit. A lot of the team have been together for a while so the connection has always been strong, it is just the actual on-field playing together, and that is extremely hard after over a year apart.
“We are always hard to break down as a team, but the impression that I want our team to make over the next couple of years is to have that x-factor and to have more of that attacking side. People may say we are hard to break down, but that maybe we don’t score goals.”
Much focus for the New Zealanders will be on the opener: a derby against FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ co-hosts Australia. The match will have added resonance for Chance after an enjoyable stint in the recent W-League season.
“Any group was going to be difficult, but I’m actually very excited about the group,” said Chance. “Playing against and with them (Australian players) in the W-League, makes it all the more exciting for me, and being a derby game just adds to it.”