Men’s soccer standout counting down to London 2012

New Zealand-born, blue-and-gold defender Anthony Hobbs is bound for England.

The recreation and sports management student-athlete is set to join the Kiwi delegation at this summer’s Olympic Games in London. Hobbs, 21, will join the likes of international soccer player Ryan Nelsen on the roster of the New Zealand team at the games, which are set to kick off July 27. He says he is honored to represent his country – and FIU – at the Olympiad.

“The Olympics are something that every athlete wants to be a part of, so qualifying for London in March was huge and one of the happiest days of my life,” said the self-described versatile defender. “I can play a number of positions. I’ll be happy to fit in wherever the coach needs me and give everything for the team.”

With the spring semester winding down at FIU, Hobbs is also looking forward to the lead-up to the big event.

“The preparation will be tough,” he said. “There’s a number of training camps, practice games…. The main thing mentioned by the coach is a tour of England playing against professional clubs to get us in top shape for the games.”

Hobbs and his Olympic teammates will spend at least three weeks together training before going back to their respective clubs and reconvening in London.

So the questions is: Is the Panther nervous about playing on such a big stage?

“Representing your country is everyone’s dream growing up, so being able to do this is is obviously the proudest moment of my life. Wearing the shirt and hearing your national anthem being played gives you a feeling like no other. You feel the whole country behind you,” he said. “The goal is to have the anthem played while receiving a medal in London, but to be honest, it is just one game at a time for us and we will see where we end up.

“I am also very proud to be a part of the FIU community and to represent FIU in London. I feel that FIU Athletics is proud of my accomplishment and I am grateful for all the support. I hope that I can make FIU proud, my country proud and, of course, my family proud of whatever we achieve.”

A star in the making

Former FIU men’s soccer head coach Munga Eketebi isn’t surprised Hobbs was tapped by his national team to represent New Zealand in London.

“I could tell from the second pre-season game his freshman year that Anthony would go far. He’s a great player with a lot of potential. I feel like he’s going to be the next guy to go pro out of FIU,” Eketebi said. “He has demonstrated [his talent] at FIU and he demonstrated it when he played every minute of every game at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia last year.

“The Olympics are a natural progression for him. I wish him lots of luck.”

Hobbs finished the 2011 regular season at FIU excelling on the soccer field, leading the Panthers in minutes played and starting all 17 games, and in the classroom, where he maintained at 3.66 GPA. The junior received his first academic all-conference honor when he was named to the Conference USA All-Academic Team after making the C-USA First-Team All-Conference.