NZ champions of five-a-side football
Eight Kiwi footballers have returned from English Premier League grounds as world champions.
On May 9 the AIA New Zealand five-a-side squad won the AIA Championship at London’s White Hart Lane, the home of premier league club Tottenham Hotspur FC. The side beat AIA Indonesia 2-1 in a game they worked their way to by competing in the championship in New Zealand and Hong Kong.
The regular 11-a-side footballers first got together in February after hearing about the tournament hosting a regional playoff in New Zealand.
Mt Eden resident and Birkenhead United midfielder Thomas Boss says the boys initially entered the competition for a ‘‘kick around’’.
‘‘We knew you could end up going to England but we were like ‘there’s no way we’re going to win that or get to that point so we’ll just go and have a kick around on Sunday’.’’
The squad went on to win the New Zealand division and were subsequently flown to Hong Kong for the semifinal clash against China on March 12.
They comfortably won this 5-2, earning them an all-expenses paid trip to the final in London.
Boss, 25, says none of the guys imagined they would achieve the kind of experience they had.
‘‘We’ve all played football to a relatively high level in New Zealand but seeing how different it is over in England was something else as well,’’ he says.
The trip also involved a training camp with the Tottenham Hotspur Academy.
Ironically Boss says he’s an Arsenal fan, the longtime rival club of Tottenham.
‘‘It wasn’t too awkward, all the players knew I was an Arsenal fan when we talked to them and were getting signatures….they thought it was quite funny.’’ Played in two 10-minute halves, the match was relentless, he says.
‘‘You’re running the whole time, you’re always having to do something because you’re never that far away from getting the ball.
‘‘Basically if someone doesn’t cover or do any defending you’re exposed pretty quickly so smaller mistakes are more likely to get punished because it’s a smaller size… it can just be one bad touch and you can end up conceding a goal from it.’’
The former Mt Albert Grammar School student has played football for Perth club Sorrento FC, as well as Hastings College in Nebraska in the United States.
AIA New Zealand at White Hart Lane: Ethan Galbraith, Jack Salter, Ryan Howlett, Harrison Bolton-Roberts, Thomas Boss, Adyn Kettle and Max Tommy (missing from photo Daniel Mulholland).