From Tawa AFC to Norway. The CJ Bott Journey so far…

LE HAVRE, FRANCE – JUNE 11: Catherine Bott of New Zealand challenges Lieke Martens of the Netherlands during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. (Photo by Matthew Lewis – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

In the last three years, CJ Bott has ticked off a few massive milestones for a young player coming out of Wellington’s Tawa AFC.

Her journey starts at primary school where she had the options of joining the school choir or kicking a ball with her brother on the courts. Bott admits that singing is “definitely not my cup of tea”. She then joined local side Tawa AFC rising through the ranks until she turned 15.

“I absolutely loved those years. It was such a great club to start at. I think in every team it is the people that makes or breaks it. And I was lucky enough to play with some amazing people”

“And then moving to Waterside Karori for my first senior women’s team, where I played with Renee Leota and Terri-Amber Carlson. I was surrounded by amazing players, which really pushed me. I was really lucky to have all that, through all my teams growing up which was awesome”

Bott then broke into the national league with Capital Football where she was able to test herself against some of the best players in the country.

“I remember my first national team with Capital, I was lucky enough, again, to play with Renee Leota and Emma Humphries. Those players really paved the way for me and showed me what it was like to play with the big guns. And then moving up to Auckland I got to train with Abby Erceg and Kirsty Yallop who really motivated and pushed me”

The New Zealand Football Foundation Kate Sheppard Cup has also played a big part in Bott’s development as on of New Zealand’s brightest stars.

“I remember, playing for Forest Hill Milford in the Final against Glenfield back in 2014 where we lost narrowly 3-2. It was a tough loss, but we bounced back two years later to win on penalties. That was such a great game, and a really satisfying win.

“I remember just the feeling of the team morale, and everyone was so excited. And it was a great atmosphere at North Harbour Stadium, those kinds of memories will definitely stay with me forever.”

Not long after that 2016 Kate Sheppard Cup victory Bott was presented with an opportunity of a lifetime. A trial for Jena in Germany to play professionally. An opportunity which would prove fruitful for the defender.

“The dream was always to become a professional player and the Jena opportunity came about through both New Zealand Football and the New Zealand Football Foundation. I had been looking at going overseas for a while as I needed the next step in my career.”

“The New Zealand Football Foundation helped get me over to Germany, and I have I’m forever grateful to both the Foundation and the 2010 All Whites who helped set up this future for my generation of players.”

Bott has also made her presence felt for the Football Ferns. Her international career has had a few ups and downs, but these mixed fortunes haven’t dampened her love for the game or for representing her country.

“I remember my debut for the Ferns well, it was probably the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. I definitely made a statement, in that first game against South Korea. I think I got a yellow card in the first probably two minutes of my five-minute appearance. It was memorable, but it was incredibly special. I think I shed a tear as I ran on”

“Representing your country is an incredibly emotional feeling for me, and it hits me most every time we sing the Anthem. I don’t think that feeling will ever wear off or become mundane and I’m always so grateful to be wearing the Fern”

Having been in two World Cup squads, 2015 and 2019, one of Bott‘s worst experiences of her international career was against Canada where a freak accident ended her campaign.

“First of all, getting to be part of a World Cup is an amazing experience. The injury was a hard pill to swallow, but the fact that it was such a freak incident, I couldn’t be upset that I didn’t prepare as well as I should have or anything like that”

“It was kind of just a matter of accepting it was completely out of the blue and could’ve happened to anyone. There was no time to cry about it. I think because I took this approach I mentally bounced back quite quickly”

Next on the dream list is the Tokyo Olympics and the 2023 World Cup, and with her track record one would not bet against her ticking these off too.

“With every athlete, you’re always setting your goals and looking at those major events. They’re definitely in the forefront of my mind”

With the potential of New Zealand co-hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup, Bott is excited to potentially represent her country on the biggest footballing stage in the world.

“As corny as it sounds, it gives me goose bumps thinking about it. I never even thought it would be possible for New Zealand to host the World Cup, but I think it’s pretty safe to say it would be the highlight of all of our careers if we were part of that group.

“I think it’s also the boost that women’s football and football in general needs, especially in New Zealand, but Australia, also.

Bott also has some inspiring words for the next generation of players coming through the ranks in New Zealand.

“It’s definitely not easy, especially coming from New Zealand, where we are all kind of underdogs in the world of football. But nothing good comes easy, and it is so so satisfying when you make it.

“It is the most incredible feeling, putting on the shirt, playing with the best players in the world, having the best players in the world as your teammates. It is so special and surreal. Such few players get to experience it, and if you could be one of them, I couldn’t recommend it any more.

If you would like to find out more information on the New Zealand Football Foundation and the different types of donations that can be made to support the game please visit footballfoundation.org.nz