Two of New Zealand’s biggest football stars sprung a surprise on a group of Cambridge children that the kids and their families will remember for years to come.
The coach of the 1982 World Cup All Whites, John Adshead, and current All Whites team manager Brian Turner visited Cambridge on Saturday as special guests at the game between WaiBOP United and Auckland City.
Their presence at the match was kept a secret from the children who play junior football for Cambridge Football Club.
The children knew they would act as mascots at the start of the match, and they might play a small game as part of the half-time entertainment at John Kerkhof Park.
What they didn’t know was that their teams would be led onto the pitch by Adshead and Turner with the same musical fanfare normally reserved for the WaiBOP United team, to play in front of 700 appreciative spectators.
Coach of the Cambridge juniors Simon Foy said the children and families enjoyed it and had “a brilliant afternoon.”
Auckland-based Turner, a veteran of five World Cup campaigns as a player, coach and manager, said he “loved every minute” with the youngsters and appreciated the chance to see top level events merging with grassroots football in Cambridge.
Adshead, who lives in Mt Maunganui, was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to football last year. He said he had “a wonderful day” at the match, meeting fans and sharing football stories.
Neither he nor Turner had previously watched a match in Cambridge but the local club’s emergence as one of six bases for national league football meant the town would see more well-known football faces.
Cambridge hosted a number of special guests including Dr Barbara Cox, MBE, the first player to captain a New Zealand women’s international team, in 1975. She played 35 games for the Football Ferns.
Arthur Egan, the team manager for the 1982 All Whites, came to Cambridge with Auckland City while John Cameron, a former Waikato-based international referee, also attended a pre-match lunch where guest speaker Turner shared his views on the current state of New Zealand football.
For the first time, Cambridge was awarded the right to host five ASB Premiership games this summer and the club’s army of volunteers have been widely acknowledged for their efforts in building a temporary stadium for each matchday – and then taking it all down afterwards.
“They’ve been fantastic all summer,” said Waikato/Bay of Plenty Federation chair Patsi Davies of the volunteers.
Cambridge still has two more WaiBOP United games to host – against national champions Waitakere United on Saturday February 15 and against Team Wellington on Saturday February 22.
In the meantime, a group of excited Cambridge youngsters will cherish memories of the day they became football stars for 10 minutes, in the company of two of the sport’s legends.