Fiji-born versatile Wellington Olympic midfielder Brendan Tukana McMullen Junior, who is trialling with the national Under 23 team, is eager to fulfill his family’s dream at the 2023 OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier in New Zealand later this month.
McMullen, who is named after his father Brendan McMullen senior is beaming with confidence and is excited to don the national jumper for the first time.
“I feel blessed to be called for the trials and I’m just hoping to make it into the final squad this week,” a joyful McMullen told FijiLive.
“It’s not very often when we get selected for national teams and being able to represent my country will be a dream come true for me and my family.”
“My dad passed away a couple of years back and my mum Salaseini as a nurse has been raising me and my siblings all by herself so I just want to make my family proud in return. My siblings really look up to me and it’s really special coming to Fiji for the trials.”
The 20-year-old jetted into the country on 26 July and since then has been in the Junior Bula Boys camp under the guidance of national men’s team head coach Rob Sherman.
McMullen’s sports journey began as a rugby player at the age of five with his cousins playing in their backyard in Suva and soon he had to put a full stop to that in order to avoid any injuries but he got attracted to football after his family migrated to New Zealand.
He also revealed that representing Fiji will be very special for his mum, who is his pillar of strength.
“When I was young, my family migrated to New Zealand and Rugby was my sport at first but when mum thought I might get hurt, there was no option for me but to just sit and watch my cousins play.”
“During my primary school days, I gained interest in football and dad knew I was engaged in sports but it took me some time to tell mum.”
“She wouldn’t allow me at first but when she saw me playing at high school level, eventually she agreed and when I told her about my selection for the trials, gosh she was over the moon. She was in tears and very happy to see me making it to the national team.”
Apart from playing football, the Wellington resident is an apprentice structural engineer and like any footballer, he also faced challenges in his early career, but patience and perseverance helped him overcome all the obstacles.
“I live a bit far from Wellington and travelling was a major issue for me. I had to travel by public transport for training and it consumed a lot of time.”
“My mum kept telling me to be patient and the right thing will fall in place on time. It was very difficult to strike the right balance and manage my time.”
“When I started working, I saved money and bought my first car which saved a lot of time for me in going for my daily training sessions.”
In terms of blending with the other players in camp, he said he did not face any problems and the squad members are all too friendly and supportive.
“The boys are really motivating and it’s good to share football knowledge with them. We see each other as equals and it’s always fun to tag around them in the training.”
“The best part is that I’m able to communicate with them in i-Taukei language and we share a strong brotherhood bond in the team.”
Meanwhile McMullen watched the the group matches of the Battle of Giants in Nadi, his first ever tournament in Fiji and said the game here is very physical.
“The teams in Fiji are very tough and they play physical football similar to what we experience in New Zealand. I’m trying to also learn some skills from the senior players at the tournament and watch how the U23 players combine with the district reps.”
National Coach Rob Sherman is expected to announce the final Fiji Under 23 squad on Thursday and the 22-member team is scheduled to depart New Zealand on Sunday.