Connor Chapman is well aware of what it means to captain his country, and there is no chance he will be taking it for granted when he leads the Qantas Joeys onto the field in the FIFA Under 17 World Cup.
Being under the spotlight as the captain of a national team could be a heavy responsibility for anyone, let alone a budding 17 year old footballer. However for Chapman, it is a duty he holds with great pride and patriotism.
Off the field, Chapman shapes as a relatively quiet, reserved figure. On it, words that have been used to describe him as a player include strong, smart and agile, but undoubtedly the most significant is the trait that he leads from the front.
Chapman was given the Joeys captaincy from the start of the AFC Championships in Uzbekistan as he and his team mates achieved their goal of qualifying for the World Cup, before being knocked out of the competition in the semi finals by the tournament hosts.
It is a role Chapman is cherishing as each day passes
“It’s massive,” Chapman replied when asked what it means to captain his country.
“There is only one guy in the team that gets to wear the captain’s armband and it is the biggest honour you can get.”
But while there is the extra attention that comes with being the captain, along with the expectation of being the inspirational and measured head of the team on the field, Chapman does not feel overwhelmed by the pressure.
“Sure the captain is seen as a leader, but there are a lot of other leaders in the team and guys who are respected just as much,” Chapman said.
“I just try to talk out on the field and be as positive as possible.”
On the eve of the World Cup, there is a general consensus among Chapman and the rest of the Joeys camp that this Australian squad has a unique understanding and team dynamic. Chapman is one of 14 members of the Joeys’ 21 player squad that is currently based at the Australian Institute in Canberra. This makes this squad, as Head Coach Jan Versleijen describes it, as more of a ‘club’ team rather than a group who have come from an array of different clubs and locations.
According to Chapman, this is something the Joeys must use to their advantage as they go up against three extremely tough opponents in Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire and Denmark in Group F.
“Of course Brazil are the ones that everyone will be looking out for, but Denmark did really well in Europe and Côte d'Ivoire are a bit of an unknown but I’ve got no doubt they will be quality as well,” Chapman said.
“It’s definitely going to be difficult, but because the core of the side has played for so long together, we all know each other’s games and have a great understanding.”
“The big factor will be if we play as a team and a united unit because if we play as individuals, chances are we’ll crumble.”
Chapman and the Joeys’ first test is against Côte d'Ivoire on Monday, June 20.