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