New Balance Blackout Squad: Shimon Baraka

New Balance Football officially launched its Blackout Squad competition in March, offering amateur players around the globe the chance to become part of a select group to trial New Balance football boots, just as the brand’s global professional player ambassadors do. The sign-up stage closed on April 6 and New Balance Australia can now announce its Australian squad.

New Balance Australia shortlisted 150 entrants who were asked to show why they deserved to be part of Blackout Squad through video. From there, the group was narrowed down to 60 entrants who will be awarded the New Balance football boots and kits. New Balance will then select the final 11 winners to represent Australia’s own Blackout Squad.

Inspired by the practice of pro-footballers trialling blacked out boots when testing new products, competition winners will be the first members of public in the world to get their hands on the highly sought-after New Balance boots alongside an exclusive Blackout Squad apparel package, worth more than $4,000.

We talk to a few of the Australian players in Team NB’s Blackout Squad.

Shimon Baraka: The 18-year-old out of South Australia moved from Kenya to Australia with a passion for football. Inspired by his father’s football career with the University of Nairobi, Shimon was encouraged by his PE teacher to follow his dreams and was guided to trying out for local clubs. 

Tell us about the team you play for.
First of all, It is THE best team to play for – Cumberland United Football Club. I’ve been at the club since I started playing club football (six years ago). Personally I think it is the best club to be at not only because of the development and talent there but because of the family environment it has and how all coaches, trainers and players get along and play their part in the success of the team. It is a well-established club, which has a positive atmosphere throughout. Coaches and players have a level of dedication that keeps everyone motivated and eager to achieve more as a club.

How does it feel to get a New Balance Blackout Squad contract?
Getting a New Balance Blackout Squad contract is really exciting - a really amazing feeling! I’m so excited for where my football is going to take me next. I’m looking forward to the opportunities that will be presented to me. Getting this contract makes me want to work even harder to get where I want to be.

What do your teammates think about you being signed to NB BoS?
My teammates are quite impressed by how I’ve made it this far in the NB BoS competition. They are a very encouraging bunch of boys who I have played with for a long time so it is amazing sharing this success with them.

What is your motivation when playing football?
When playing football I give everything I’ve got while playing on the pitch. My main motivation when playing is to be the best on the pitch and work hard for my team to succeed. When playing I want to be the best at what I do and have fun displaying my skills and flair. I take the opportunity to enjoy myself and have as much fun whilst on the pitch.

Which New Balance professional player has a similar style to you, or do you aspire to be like?
I would consider my playing style like Aaron Ramsey because of how similar we are in the team roles. I play the same position as him (midfield) and my game in regards to flair and style of play is very similar to his. I aspire to be like him because he’s a versatile, complete midfielder who can control any game, and that’s how I aspire to be on the pitch. His ability to run with the ball and add flair to his game is quite similar to how I play.

New Balance’s squad of professional players are backing the plan, encouraging amateur players around the world to enter. Australia superstar, Shanghai Shenhua attacker Tim Cahill, said: "I’ll never forget where I got my start in football and those that challenged and believed in me, helping me take my game to the next level.

“I love the concept of the New Balance Blackout Squad, it's an initiative like this that can help provide the inspiration and drive for the future stars of football, giving them the professional experience and opportunity to connect with other like-minded grassroots players globally. The best way to improve yourself is by giving your all in training and games and NB will make sure that the winners have all the right gear to make it happen. I’m excited to watch this group of rising stars and welcome them to team New Balance.”

To learn more on the global Blackout Squad, go to: www.newbalance.com.au

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