Vicelich and Roca bring flair to City
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.
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.