Vicelich and Roca bring flair to City

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Scott Mor­gan

There’ll be a Euro­pean flavour to the Auck­land City foot­ball side when they start their New Zealand Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship cam­paign this week­end.

For­mer All White Ivan Vicelich has re­turned to cap­tain City af­ter play­ing in the Nether­lands for eight years.

He played for the Kingz A-League fran­chise and Auck­land City’s North­ern Premier League sis­ter club Cen­tral United, also based at Ki­witea St, be­fore mov­ing to Europe.

And he’ll be joined by de­fender Xavi Roca, who has played top level foot­ball for Euro­pean su­per clubs Barcelona and Vil­lareal.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble to get a player down here who’s played in the Span­ish premier league. Just hav­ing him in the team is a great ben­e­fit,” Vicelich says.

As for his own re­turn to Ki­witea St, the 32-year-old says it wasn’t a hard de­ci­sion to come home af­ter the birth of his first child, Luka, four and a half months ago.

“I’ve had some great mem­o­ries here in the past. It’s a real fam­ily club.”

Vicelich de­scribes be­ing of­fered the cap­taincy as an hon­our, af­ter last year’s skip­per Ben Sig­mund took up a pro­fes­sional con­tract with the Welling­ton Phoenix.

“I’m re­ally proud to lead the guys out into bat­tle. I just want to do well with the team.”

Thirty-four-year-old Roca de­cided to take up a po­si­tion with the club af­ter City as­sis­tant coach and friend Ra­mon Tribu­li­etx men­tioned he was head­ing down to New Zealand for the sum­mer.

While Roca only knows a lim­ited amount of English, Tribu­li­etx says it shouldn’t be that much of a prob­lem for his mate when he steps out on the field.

“The lan­guage of foot­ball is uni­ver­sal. The play­ers will un­der­stand each other some­how.”

The pair will also rep­re­sent Auck­land City in the O-League against teams from around the Pa­cific for a spot in the UEFA cham­pi­ons league next year.

City coach Colin Tuaa says the im­pact Vicelich and Roca have had on the side is show­ing al­ready.

“It’s ab­so­lutely great hav­ing play­ers who’ve played at the high­est level.”

But Tuaa says there are sev­eral youngsters from last year who could also have a ma­jor im­pact dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing Sam Camp­bell, Lance Hes­lop and Alex Fener­ides.

Auck­land City kick off their sea­son with an OLeague match against Waitakere United on Sun­day at Ki­witea St, be­fore play­ing their first NZFC match against Otago on Novem­ber 9 at the same ground.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers: Auck­land City’s new ad­di­tions Ivan Vicelich, left, and Xavi Roca are looking to help their side to the NZFC ti­tle this year.

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