As a young boy standing in The Cove watching the likes of Milos Ninkovic, Rhyan Grant and Alex Wilkinson lift Premierships and Championships, little could Calem Nieuwenhof think that one day he’d be joining them in the A-League squad.
The 19-year old midfielder made his Sky Blues debut against Shanghai SIPG two weeks ago, impressing against the likes of Brazilian superstar Hulk and Socceroos international Aaron Mooy, and putting in a performance which led Head Coach Steve Corica to describe him as “the best player on the pitch.”
For the young Northern Beaches kid, it was a day he will cherish.
“It was a very surreal moment and obviously a very proud moment for me and my family,” said Nieuwenhof.
“I’ve supported the club ever since I was a young boy, I’ve been to a lot of the matches, so to get on the field with some of the players I’ve been watching when I was younger was an awesome experience and one I’m very proud of.
“I was pretty happy with the way I played,” he continued. “It helped a lot having two experienced boys behind me and one in midfield.
The Curl Curl native has long been a Sky Blues Member and fan and was a regular in the stands watching his heroes while growing up.
“I’ve been to quite a few [matches],” he said. “Probably the most memorable one was the Sydney Derby game I went to where we beat them [WSW] 4-0.
“I was in The Cove for that game and I just remember it being an awesome atmosphere. The crowd, the game, everything was amazing.
“In particular, I remember watching Brandon O’Neill’s free-kick that he scored.
“When it went in, I was in The Cove, and it was an awesome experience. Definitely one of the biggest highlights for me as a Sydney FC fan.”
As an inaugural Sydney FC Academy player, Nieuwenhof has been with the club for five years (along with his brother Luke) and credits his move into the first team as down to how the player pathway is set up.
“It was a pretty seamless transition,” he continued. “The club culture runs through the entire system and also the coaching staff with the youth team helped me a lot.
“It’s still a very big jump coming up into the first team in terms of quality and what they expect of you, but the coaching staff and players couldn’t have made it any easier for me.”
Having made his debut, the Sydney FC youngster is hoping more game time is around the corner, particularly when it comes to the domestic competition.
“I’m very excited. It will be my first A-League season as a real part of the squad and I’m really hoping to get as many minutes as possible with the team and try and help out as best I can.”