Amateur Football Fern Deven Jackson keen to kick it with United States stars
A National League amateur soccer player who made her comeback to the sport nine months ago is about to make an unexpected international debut against the dominating United States women’s national team.
Returning to competitive football after a three-year absence in 2022, Deven Jackson guided Auckland club Eastern Suburbs to the National League title after starring in the final, scoring two goals and providing two more to defeat Western Springs with 4: 0 to beat .
That performance led to their first call-up from Football Ferns for New Zealand’s two friendlies against the two-time holders in Wellington and Auckland on Wednesday and Saturday.
The 24-year-old forward, who has a full-time job outside of football, said it was both scary and exciting as she prepared to face the biggest test of her career against the women’s number one.
Jackson was one of three amateur players selected in an underhanded Football Ferns roster, along with Eastern Suburbs teammate Tayla O’Brien and Canterbury United Pride’s Rebecca Lake.
With the two games being played outside of a Fifa window and a host of frontline players not being sacked by their clubs, the trio have been given a unique opportunity to play the away US team.
But playing against the most successful team in women’s football is a huge step up from the National League.
The top US players like forward Alex Morgan reportedly make $250,000 a year.
“I think I speak for almost the entire team that it’s scary but also exciting. We’re obviously the underdogs, we just go out there and try our best,” Jackson said.
“It’s an exciting opportunity and we really have nothing to lose. It’s going to be a good challenge and it’s so cool. We adore these girls and look up to them so much it will be cool to play with them.”
An international call had not been on Jackson’s radar after he only returned to the sport last year after a three-year absence.
She left football after undergoing three hip surgeries but was lured back by her partner and best friend, who both play for Eastern Suburbs.
Jackson said she missed out on competitiveness but was determined to make the most of her second shot.
“I have a full-time job. I didn’t even play football for three years, so as of 2022 everything was fine.
“For me, honestly, that [wasn’t on my radar], no. It’s a very pleasant surprise and I’m very grateful for the opportunity and very proud.
“I’ve had three hip surgeries in the past three years. It was pretty invasive and I have the scars to prove it.
Not only was she pushed to debut on Wednesday, but Jackson said she wants to use her first Football Ferns camp to stake her claim on selection for the Women’s World Cup later this year.
A strong performance against the USA could catapult them into the competition.
“It’s cool that local players are being watched,” she said.
“That says a lot about the league and that [coach] jitka [Klimkova] is looking for the best talent everywhere.
“Obviously some players are missing, but that’s good for us newcomers coming in.
“I’ll give hell for leather and do my best and try to secure a spot if I can.”