Clayton Lewis targets Tokyo Olympics as he explains his return to New Zealand

Clayton Lewis is one of New Zealand’s most important players. The 23-year-old midfielder has already represented his country fourteen times and guided the OlyWhites to a spot in the men’s football tournament of Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

The former Scunthorpe United footballer recently played for Auckland United in the NRFL Premier League before the league was called off due to COVID-19 restrictions. Lewis also won the ISPS Handa Premiership last season as one of Auckland City’s most important players.

The midfielder talked to Oceania Football Center about some topics regarding his career, football in New Zealand, and his future goals. You can check the full interview below:

After a few seasons in European football, you decided to return to Auckland City FC. Why did you decide to move back to the Navy Blues?

It was tough in England because I was not getting many opportunities to play. We were losing games and I would always ask why I was not playing. I always got given the excuse of “we want to go with experienced players for this game” so it was hard to take for two years. Coming back to Auckland City was a chance to play games for seven months before the Olympic Games. But with Covid-19, that has pushed the Olympics back a year, so that was a shame for me.

Despite the Covid-19 situation, you will be able to play for the Olywhites next year in Tokyo. Was it a relief for you?

Yes, definitely. I was very worried that another chance at the Olympics was going to be taken from me. I cannot wait to get as fit as I can, and hopefully I get selected by the coach.

Since you returned to New Zealand, you captained the U-23 National Team which sealed their spot in Tokyo, you qualified for the OCL knockout stage, and you lifted the ISPS Handa Premiership trophy. Good start isn’t it?

Yes, it’s a good start, but I want more now. Hopefully options will open up elsewhere.

How was being part of this new project at Auckland United?

It was amazing. The club’s goals and expectations from the start have been very high and professional, and the group we have I think could achieve so much if the season were not called off. The youth academy has a lot of prospects I can see playing for the first team and moving overseas as well.

How has this new lockdown affected you as a footballer?

It has been tough: I had nine matches where I played the full 90 minutes, so my match fitness was good, I knew I could run all game; whereas now, there is no football, no training, so I am having to do things myself, for example, go for runs, set up running drills, speed drills etc., to try keep up the fitness. But nothing compares to match fitness.

New Zealand is having a boom in football currently. Many young players are departing to Europe, while the league itself is receiving more interest and investment. Why is this?

I think New Zealand has always had the talent, but no one ever looked or scouted here. Now they are starting to, and you can see so many young Kiwis growing into true professionals and making a name for themselves in the game. Hopefully someone will come in for me soon, too.

Clayton Lewis is still young and will certainly have many opportunities in his career. We thank him for the interview and wish him luck in his next steps as a footballer.

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