Calem Nieuwenhof’s first professional game of Football was against Shanghai SIPG and the likes of Hulk and Aaron Mooy. His first goal was a rocket from outside the box. Suffice to say he’s acclimatised to his fast rise to stardom pretty well.
But a lot of where he is today is due to the time he spent developing his skills as a young player at Curl Curl and Manly United. He even spent his HSC year back at Manly United to balance football and school studies before returning to Sydney FC.
At age four he was already kicking a ball around for Curl Curl. He is the perfect example of how hard work and dedication can get you anywhere.
As part of a new weekly series highlighting the MWFA grassroots players who have progressed to higher honours through the MWFA / Manly United pathway, we spoke to Calem about the path he has taken.
It all started at home in his backyard for Calem, and shortly after he was running out onto the field for Curl Curl FC.
“I just loved kicking a ball around with Dad at home, so I started playing at aged four for ‘Curly’. I’ve always loved my Football since then.”
After a couple of years at Curl Curl, he knew he wanted to be a part of the rep teams and deservedly so. This is where both Manly United and the new defunct Football NSW Institute came into play – two organisations he credits as “massively helping him develop as a player.”
He kept it a family affair with Manly as well – “My Dad played for Manly a little bit when he was younger. I didn’t really think about going anywhere else.”
“That real focus on developing technical skills, that’s definitely one of the biggest things that helped me. They’re just an amazing club in general, with a great culture. The players there were very good to be around, as well as the coaches.”
“The Football NSW Institute also helped me develop upon my technical skills. Being with both them and Manly United helped give me great skills needed for my move to Sydney FC.”
Crediting Sydney FC’s Academy for how he’s been moulded as a player, he also had this to say: “Sydney’s Academy really helped to create a game awareness side for me as a player which I’m thankful for.”
His debut was against one of the biggest teams in Asia, while his first goal for Sydney FC will no doubt feature in the A-League goal of the Year discussions. It has already been replayed over and over.
“I got told a couple of days before the game that I was going to be starting which was a combination of both nervousness and excitement for me. I just wanted to do the best I could to help the team win.”
“Then with my goal I knew what I wanted to do and just hit it. I was pretty surprised it went in because I’d never really done anything like that before.”
Still aged just 19, there’s still so much more to come from Calem, at both Sydney and beyond but he will always remember where it started – John Fisher Park with Curl Curl.