Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante is a
possibility to ease the pain of Ryan Nelsen's retirement after
confirming today he is switching allegiance from his native
Durante has been on the radar of New Zealand football fans
for some time, and in March will have completed the five
years' residency necessary to qualify for the All Whites.
With that date fast approaching, Durante has decided to apply
to Fifa for eligibility and he may even be able to take the
field for his adopted country in their World Cup qualifiers
in late March.
The news comes at the perfect time for the All Whites,
reeling from the impending retirement of their captain.
Durante, one of the best centre backs in the A-League, will
be seen as an heir apparent for Nelsen and, with Winston Reid
and Tommy Smith, will allow Ricki Herbert to retain the back
three of which he is fond.
Durante's eligibility is no certainty, with Fifa notoriously
strict in their criteria for players wishing to switch
nations. While Durante has never stepped foot on a football
field for Australia, he has been in several Socceroos squads
and even sat on the bench during an Asian Cup qualifier in
For those reasons, Durante was remaining cautiously
optimistic about his chances of pulling on the silver fern.
"I'm kind of cautious but in the back of my head I'm keen to
play for the All Whites," he said. "I've been on the bench
for a Socceroos game so there's always that that Fifa can
look at, but the process is in motion and hopefully it all
turns out all right and in March everything's all rosy."
Durante said the switch has been in the pipeline for some
time and was not triggered by Nelsen's decision to take up
the managerial reins at MLS side Toronto FC.
"It makes no difference to me, really. I'm going to pursue
going down that path, regardless of if Ryan was around," he
said. "Obviously, not being selected in the Socceroos has
made the decision a lot easier. It's my birth country and
obviously very close ties with it.
"But I've got very close links to New Zealand now - I've been
here for five years, I'm captain of the only professional
football club here, my daughter was born here, I own property
here. It's home to me at the moment, it feels right and
Ricki's quite keen for it to happen, which is always a
positive, and the players have also been really positive
With a large contingent of his Phoenix teammates also
internationals, Durante was confident he would be made to
feel welcome in the New Zealand dressing room.
Once the red tape is cut and his switch is confirmed,
Durante's next task is to brush up on the Maori verse of the
"I think I've got to learn [the words] quick smart. I'm sure
I'll get tested once it all goes through."