Some legends of New Zealand Football are preparing to take part in one of the biggest sporting events in the world in the World Masters Games this week in Auckland.
Former All Whites like David Rayner, David Mulligan, Ivan Vicelich and Noah Hickey and ex-Football Ferns like Sarah Gregorius, Priscilla Duncan, Rebecca Rolls and Kristy Hill are dusting off the boots to be part of the action.
With more athletes than the Olympics, the World Masters Games is the single biggest multi-sport event on earth and is being held in Auckland over 10 action-packed days from 21 April.
Recognised by the International Olympic Committee, the event will bring over 25,000 athletes from 100 countries together with 28 sports and 45 disciplines on offer.
Daniel Farrow, the Head of National Competitions for New Zealand Football, said Tournament Director Kerry Greene and her team have been working behind the scenes since June and can’t wait for the World Masters Games to begin.
“We are now getting to the business end of the tournament and we are looking forward to welcoming over 2,200 athletes across three football venues to Auckland,” said Farrow.
“This is a massive event on the world stage. It is a real privilege to have this in Auckland and for New Zealand Football to be able to deliver the football tournament.”
Farrow said the World Masters Games is famous for being a great social event, but the standard of A Grade will be exceptionally high with a number of players who have competed at the highest level.
“This event has attracted a number of ex-international players across the board, there are a number of former Ferns and All Whites taking part to add the Kiwi flavour. They are very much trying to win. There are certain age groups like the 30s or 40s that are going to be incredibly competitive.”
The Men’s A-Grade Premier 35+ shapes as a great battle. Central United, with former All Whites Rayner, Mulligan, Paul Urlovic, Vicelich and former South African international Grant Young and Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx, will fancy their chances of claiming the title.
They are likely to meet Rangitoto United in the final who also boast plenty of former internationals in Leigh Kenyon, Jeff Campbell, Hickey, Graham Pearce, Gerard Davis, Ross Nicholson and Tim Stevens.
Football Ferns coach Tony Readings will be among those competing when he lines up for Birkenhead United Men’s B-Grade Competitive over 40s.
In the women’s competition, Ferns Reunited are sure to capture most of the attention in the Women’s A-Grade Premier 30+. Their team is stacked full of Ferns like Duncan, Gregorius, Priscilla Duncan, Pam Yates, Cushla Lichtwark, Dana Humby, Kristy Hill and Rebecca Rolls.
Meanwhile, a few of the older generation of All Whites in former captain Rodger Gray, Carl Jorgensen and NZ Football Foundation CEO Noel Barkley will line up in the Kiwi Masters in the Men’s A-Grade Premier 50+.
Farrow said that player experience is the key measure for success of the World Masters Games.
“If people walk away from the tournament and they have had a competitive experience and a positive experience in Auckland then I feel everyone in our team will feel like they have done their job.”
The football of the World Masters Games will be contested at QBE Stadium and Westlake Boy’s and Girl’s High Schools from Saturday 22 April with most of the finals to be contested on Sunday 30 April. There are three finals on Saturday 29 April and the A 50+ Men Final is on Wednesday afternoon between two Kiwi 50+ teams.
New Zealand Football’s Injury Prevention team will be in action delivering the Fit4Football Programme at QBE Stadium and Westlake Girl’s High School during the tournament. The Fit4Football programme, which was well received at the recent Auckland U-17 tournament, sees all of the athletes participating in the World Masters Games have free access to warm-up, recovery zones, enhancing performance and injury prevention support.
Birkenhead United World Masters (Men’s B-Grade Competitive 40+):
Central United (Men’s A-Grade Premier 35+):
Grant Young (ex-South Africa international, Auckland City legend)
Ferns Reunited (Women’s A-Grade Premier 30+):
Kiwi Masters (Men’s A-Grade Premier 50+):
Rodger Gray (ex-All Whites captain)
Rangitoto United (Men’s A-Grade Premier 35+)
World Masters Games 2017 Fact Box
When: Saturday 22 April – Sunday 30 April
Where: QBE Stadium and Westlake Boy’s and Girl’s High Schools, Auckland
A Grade (Premier) – Men and Women: 30+, 35+, 40+, 45+, 50+
B Grade (Competitive) – Men and Women: 30+, 40+,50+
Open Grade – Men and Women: 55+, 60+
For more information visit: http://www.worldmastersgames2017.co.nz/the-sports/schedules-and-results/football/