Rory Fallon: International footballer to ice cream entrepreneur

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Rory Fallon: International footballer turns ice cream entrepreneur

It is the big decision that looms for professional footballers at every level of the game - what to do with your life after your playing career ends.

Many move into coaching, others become agents or media pundits, while back in the day opening a pub was a route taken by lots of ex-pros.

It's safe to assume starting an ice cream business is a notably less popular option, but that is exactly what former New Zealand forward Rory Fallon has chosen to do after hanging up his boots aged 35.

The striker's last involvement in the game was his country's 2018 World Cup qualifying exit at the hands of Peru, but by then he already intended to swap football for ice cream.

"Ice cream's been a passion of mine since I was young," he said as we sat in one of the restaurants in south-west England that he and his wife supply through their Plymouth-based Cowlick Creamery business.

"I remember when my dad used to coach football on Saturday and I'd play my games. On a Sunday we'd get ice cream as a treat if we won.

"My wife and I both had a major passion for it. Every time we'd go on holiday, the first place we'd hit wouldn't be the theme parks or beach - it would be the best ice cream shop in town.

"The opportunity came up when I got injured to start up our own ice cream business."

Fallon played for 15 clubs, from the second to the seventh tier of English football as well as the top flight in Scotland with Aberdeen.

So while he and his wife Carly moved around the country, club to club, it gave them plenty of guinea pigs to test out their recipes on - and, as a result, the confidence to set up their business.

He continued: "She was a trained chef but was pretty much just following me around the country. So while I was playing football she was making ice cream and thinking of new flavours.

"She had a desktop ice cream machine and all the lads at Aberdeen would come and rate the different flavours."

A national hero in New Zealand

Rory Fallon
Fallon's goal against Bahrain was a key moment in New Zealand football history

While ice cream is his new love, football was what made Fallon a hero in his native New Zealand.

The son of Kevin Fallon, the assistant manager of the New Zealand team at the 1982 World Cup, it was Fallon's goal in the second leg of the All Whites' play-off with Bahrain that sent the Kiwis to the 2010 World Cup.

He said: "I played at every level except the English Premier League. But I doubt that even if I played in the Premier League or the Champions League, nothing can compare to taking my team to the World Cup and playing in it."

Rory Fallon fact file
Born in New Zealand, he moved to the UK to join Barnsley as a youth player
Played for England's youth teams before switching to New Zealand as a senior player
Scored 86 goals in an 18-year league career
Won 23 caps for New Zealand, scoring six times

New Zealand got a 0-0 draw away in Bahrain and Fallon's headed goal at a packed Westpac Stadium in Wellington gave his side a 1-0 win to send them to South Africa.

"We shouldn't have got a draw (in the first leg), we should have lost 2-0 really, we had angels blocking the goal I believe," he recalled. "They hit the post, the crossbar and missed an open goal.

"Out of all of the games I played in, that was the only time I was scared to play. I was petrified because I knew the repercussions - to have an opportunity like that and to blow it at home would have been catastrophic.

"When I headed that ball it felt so good off my head. As soon as I saw it in the back of the net I just felt euphoric.

"I still get goosebumps talking about it, it's one of those things you imagine as a child and when it happens to you, you're living out your wildest fantasy."

World Cup heartache

New Zealand
New Zealand were the only unbeaten team at the 2010 World Cup

Drawn in a group with defending world champions Italy, Slovakia and Paraguay, the All Whites were huge underdogs.

A Winston Reid stoppage-time equaliser salvaged a point in their opener with Slovakia, before another 1-1 draw with Italy and finally a 0-0 with Paraguay.

The Italians finished bottom and Fallon says their draw, after a disputed penalty, still fills him with regret.

"Even in the tunnel you see them and they're strutting around," he said.

"We had players in the Australian leagues, players that didn't have clubs, some part-timers, one worked in a bank.

"But when we came to face Italy we weren't scared of them, we were thinking 'we're going to beat you'.

"We should have won, it should have been 1-0. Tommy Smith gave the guy a little tug in the box. If someone pulled me in the box and I'd have gone down, I wouldn't have got that penalty, but because it's the world champions, they give a penalty.

"A 1-0 win would have taken us to the next round when we would have faced Japan, and then you're thinking anything's possible."

Turning his back on the game

Rory Fallon
Fallon's longest spell at a club was four years at Plymouth between 2007 and 2011, playing almost 150 times for Argyle

After two serious knee injuries, Fallon saw out his time at non-league English clubs Torquay United and Dorchester Town.

He says he is grateful that his business has given him an alternative to requiring another role in football.

Fallon added: "It was my passion as a kid, but once I became a professional it changed for me, it became a job and I saw it as a job and I was very mercenary about football.

"Do I want another 18 years as a coach with the game so fickle? My coach at Torquay was sacked after four games. That's not even an opportunity.

"I don't see that as something you can really rely on, that's why I wanted the business."

So could he one day export his ice cream to Bahrain - the country whose World Cup hopes he once dashed?

"It's hard enough getting out to the restaurants, never mind Bahrain," he joked.

"It's like football, where you set yourself a target and you try to nail it. It's the same with business.

"We don't plan to be Häagen-Dazs, but we want to make a good living out of it."

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