Coach humbled by support


Football ‘not soccer’ coach Jamie Whitmarsh has scored a blinder in his bid for residency.

The popular Londoner, 48, started an online petition to show Immigration New Zealand (INZ) he’s making a significant contribution to the community.

It’s been backed by a whopping 564 people.

And 134 of them took the time to put into words how important he is as a football development officer for the region for NZ Football.

“It’s really humbling to be honest,” he says.

“I’m a football coach. I’m not a doctor or a scientist.

“But thankfully I seem to be having an effect on a lot of people, especially the kids.”

He’s met hundreds of people coaching across Central Otago and also in coaching programmes, such as national age group tournaments.

“I’m happy to be a mentor to the kids.

“I think the parents look at me as someone who can help their kids to become better people.

“That’s what I’m in it for.”

Whitmarsh has more than 15 years’ experience in sports.

He’s a former coach of US pro team New York Red Bulls, so more than qualified for his job.

But he has a mild form of cystic fibrosis, so needs a medical waiver – INZ lists it as a chronic condition.

“I have a mild form, it’s nowhere near chronic,” Whitmarsh says.

“Anyone who sees me, they’ll say there’s nothing wrong with this geezer, apart from the fact he’s an Arsenal fan.

“I’m out on the grass all day.”

Whitmarsh, who was until recently coach of Queenstown Rovers men’s team, has had the condition since birth.

“It’s all about showing I’m not going to be a sick-note and a burden.”

The paperwork has been submitted, including the petition and letters of support from Football South - one of the seven federations of NZ Football.

It’s now a waiting game to see whether he gets permanent residency.

His current work visa runs out early next year.

INZ area manager Darren Calder says in an emailed statement each case is considered on its merits and the petition and support will be considered.

“When making a decision, INZ takes into account all representation received.”