VANCOUVER, BC - One minute, you’re performing in front of 25,000 delirious fans, then you’re in the eye of an international controversy the next.
That’s just part of a whirlwind 2015 for Deklan Wynne, one of 13 core players coming back to Whitecaps FC 2 next year.
Most 20-year olds would melt in the heat of the spotlight, but Wynne is not your ordinary 20-year old.
Born in South Africa before moving to New Zealand in 2010, Wynne came into his own in Auckland, developing into a promising left-footed defender in the youth soccer circuit, and eventually entering the professional ranks before he celebrated his 19th birthday.
In the ASB Premiership, New Zealand’s national association football league, Wynne was a full-time starter for Wanderers SC, a club created to develop players for the national U-20 team. Playing the full 90 minutes in all of his 26 appearances for Wanderers SC from 2013 to 2015, the skillful left back was invited to lace his boots for his adopted home country as New Zealand hosted the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015.
The hometown Junior All Whites performed above most people’s expectations, advancing past the group stage before bowing out versus Portugal in the Round of 16. Wynne started all four of the tournament matches, further cementing his status as one of the bright young players in the country.
“To play in the U-20 World Cup in my home country was amazing. In the first game, walking out in front of 25,000 New Zealand fans was unbelievable,” Wynne said. “To get out of the group was something we wanted to achieve and we were able to do it.”
Just a month later, Wynne would move up to the Oly-Whites, the New Zealand national U-23 team, competing in the 2015 Pacific Games, which doubled as the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
This is when things got complicated.
Wynne’s appearance in New Zealand’s semifinal win over Vanuatu would be the subject of a protest lodged by the Vanuatu Football Federation, claiming that the native South African was ineligible to play for the Oly-Whites. Despite New Zealand Football insisting that they were in compliance, the protest was eventually upheld by the OFC, allowing Vanuatu to replace New Zealand in the OFC final and ending the Oly-Whites hopes of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympics.
It was an unfortunate turn of events. But for a player who used his skill and hard work to create his own luck, it was not an obstacle that he couldn’t overcome.
Shortly after that tribulation, the ‘Caps came calling, inviting the 5-foot-10 defender for a trial at a time he needed to get away from the distractions off the pitch.
“It was good to come to Vancouver... to get away from New Zealand and focus on football again.” - Wynne
“There was a lot of attention around me in New Zealand, as I was the centerpiece to the whole disqualification. As soon as we got back from the Pacific Games, it was good to come out here to Vancouver even just on trial, to get away from New Zealand and focus on football again. To be playing here is a great opportunity for me.”
Wynne joined WFC2 late in the club’s inaugural season in the United Soccer League, adjusting to the city smoothly while starting three of the last four matches to close out the year and showing enough promise for the club to invite him back for 2016.
“Vancouver is quite similar to Auckland. The weather is getting cold now, it's opposite to New Zealand where it's summer right now,” Wynne said. “I’ve only been here for four games so I’m looking forward to next season, to getting as many starts under my belt. I’m trying to get accustomed to how they play over here so I can become a better player.”
With a full training camp in head coach Alan Koch’s free-flowing system before the upcoming season, Wynne is optimistic about his second year with WFC2.
“Now that I’ve spent some time with my teammates and gotten used to how they play, I think we’ll just gel better. It will be great for my performance and the team’s performance,” Wynne added. “I want to make the playoffs, that’s something the whole team wants.”
With everything Wynne has been through this past year, the pressures that come with next season will be nothing but a summer Auckland breeze in the middle of December.