Stu­dent team puts NMIT in the game

The Leader (Tasman) - - SPORTS TALK - PHILLIP ROLLO

Hail­ing from Louisiana, Neil Ben­son is used to uni­ver­si­ties be­ing at the fore­front of the sport­ing com­mu­nity. So how come NMIT didn’t have a team?

There have been sev­eral so­cial sides but noth­ing when it came to se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion.

A lec­turer at NMIT, Ben­son said it was com­mon to see stu­dents play­ing foot­ball on cam­pus dur­ing the sum­mer evenings.

‘‘You get a lot of in­ter­na­tion­als who live near cam­pus or at the apart­ments next door and they spent a lot of their spare time on the pitch,’’ he said.

So it got him think­ing. Why not cre­ate a team that the stu­dents could play for on the week­ends?

It would be the per­fect way for the in­ter­na­tion­als to ex­pe­ri­ence Kiwi cul­ture and meet new peo­ple, and it would al­low other ath­letes to rep­re­sent their poly­tech in a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘They have some amaz­ing foot­ballers from all over the place and they were stick­ing in their own groups,’’ he said.

‘‘With English be­ing their sec­ond lan­guage maybe it might have been in­tim­i­dat­ing to find a club so I thought it’d be nice if they had an en­vi­ron­ment where we could sup­port them.’’

That led to a con­ver­sa­tion with NMIT chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Gray, and an­other with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Main­land Foot­ball and Nel­son Bays Foot­ball.

Ev­ery­one seemed sup­port­ive of the idea and en­cour­aged Ben­son to ap­proach a club, and FC Nel­son were happy to ac­com­mo­date them.

Ben­son sent out emails and put up fly­ers around cam­pus, and by the time the sea­son kicked off there was a strong core of cur­rent and former stu­dents that had put their hand up for se­lec­tion, with staff mem­bers like him­self fill­ing the gaps.

Ben­son said it was a bit of an un­known how the team would go in its first sea­son, which is why they opted for di­vi­sion three.

How­ever, with nine wins and two losses, they are just three points off the lead­ers, Rich­mond This­tle, with three rounds to go and could yet win the league.

Re­gard­less of where they fin­ish on the ta­ble, Ben­son said the sea­son has been a suc­cess and he’s al­ready ex­cited about what the fu­ture holds.

Ini­tially some of the bet­ter play­ers at NMIT liked the con­cept but didn’t want to drop to di­vi­sion three, so there’s a chance that they will make the switch if they can push higher up the grades.

Plus, it may en­cour­age other sports to fol­low suit.

‘‘Hope­fully this is the start and we’ll just con­tinue,’’ Ben­son said.

‘‘I find when you go to uni­ver­si­ties or other in­sti­tu­tions to get ed­u­cated, it’s one of the things you’d ex­pect to get in­volved in, but it’s just not been avail­able.

‘‘Hope­fully now it just cre­ates a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment and not only brings stu­dents from dif­fer­ent cul­tures to­gether but brings dif­fer­ent de­part­ments too, who may never have min­gled to­gether.’’

PHOTO: VIR­GINIA WOOLF/FAIR­FAX NZ

FC Nel­son’s Bas­tian Guzin­ski and NMIT’s Khai On com­pete for the ball dur­ing their di­vi­sion three foot­ball game on Satur­day.

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