Jai and Dane Ingham would have laughed at the idea of playing international football this time last year but both brothers could be representing New Zealand in the World Cup Qualifier reverse fixture against Fiji on Saturday.
Progression has been fast for Melbourne Victory’s Jai and Brisbane Roar’s Dane in the past 12 months and both conceded they were shocked when All Whites coach Anthony Hudson selected them in his 23-man squad.
The Lismore-born pair were eligible to play for the Socceroos, All Whites or Samoa through their Dunedin-born mother Virginia.
The siblings maintain a close relationship and although they never played together at semi-pro or A-League level they both turned out for Olympic FC in Brisbane before their professional careers.
They sometimes jokingly refer to each other as sisters due to their close relationship, that sees them in contact every day.
“It’s part of the banter sometimes, he’s a girl,” Jai joked. “When I go home, I rough him up a bit and he tries to stand over me now because he’s a bit taller than me… I don’t know how he is.
“Now he tries to rough me up a bit and he’s getting there, getting a bit stronger. It’s good for him so it’s just the banter and a bit of brotherly love.
“As kids we’d train all the time with my father at the fields. I used to get really frustrated with him because he wasn’t up to the standard but he’s worked on that now, has a bit more technique and hunger for it.”
Dane says Jai inspired him from a young age when his brother was in Roar’s youth and senior setup from 2013 – 2015 before moving to Victoria to compete with NPL side Hume City and then Victory.
It took months for Jai to match the level of fitness required at A-League level. He was still working in retail during his Hume days where he received plaudits for his performances.
“When we were young he used to rough me up, especially being six years older,” Dane told FourFourTwo.
“I remember when we were just little kids growing up we used to go down to the park and I always wanted to try and beat him and be better than him so he’s good to have as a brother.
“Looking up to him, not working out here at Brisbane when he got let go, he went down there and worked hard. He’s a good inspiration in that way, always worked hard for where he is so it’s good to look up to.”
Dane has played just the two games for Brisbane Roar in the A-League and has represented the club in three AFC Asian Champions League games (ACL).
His debuted for Roar in a 2-2 draw with Melbourne City at AAMI Park in February after coach John Aloisi made six changes from the team that defeated Shanghai 2-0 away in the ACL that week.
Jai considered an opportunity for Samoa’s national team when he signed for Victory in January, 2016 but simply said the All Whites had a better chance of qualifying for a World Cup.
He also spoke of his brother’s progression and the prospects of playing for the All Whites together.
“It’s very surreal, we both made it and were very happy when they announced the team, it’s a huge honour,” Jai said.
“It’s crazy, Dane comes in, has a few good games and you never know what can happen. But I guess that’s football… As soon as someone likes you, you can do a lot of things with him.
“Dane’s a very good player, very positive going forward. He’s done very well since he came in, he’s only 17 and making the national team. It’s not just inspiring for kids his age, but even people like me.
“When I was 17, I can’t remember what I was doing but hats off to him for impressing the coaching staff, getting the chance to come in and show them the type of player he is.”
Dane revealed Hudson flew to Brisbane to meet with his family and agent to discuss his involvement in the All Whites.
The teenager had mixed emotions about his quick progression and feels he made the right call to play for New Zealand despite having experience training with the Young Socceroos last month.
Dane added: “It’s pretty crazy, I don’t really know how to say it but it’s just crazy what’s happened.
“I’m a little nervous but more excited I guess but it should be good. A few of the Roar boys actually came up to me and just said ‘take it as it comes, it’s going to be a good experience’.”