NZ cham­pi­ons of five-a-side foot­ball

Central Leader - - MILESTONES - HUGH COLLINS

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).

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