The Irish are going to the soccer World Cup – just not in South Africa.
A bunch of Queenstown-based Irish plus a token Englishman have entered
themselves as “New Zealand” for a Wakatipu-style World Cup on Saturday.
They’ll don black shirts to play in the Waitangi Day five-a-side competition organised by Queenstown Rovers Football Club.
Still smarting from the national team’s controversial qualifier against France last November, Irishman and “New Zealand” team member Gavin Grant says they’d love the chance to play the “Frogs” in the Queenstown final.
The soccer-mad Irish are dark after French striker Thierry Henry got away with a handball to another teammate who went on to score a winning overtime goal.
“We were robbed [in the World Cup qualifier],” Grant says. “We’ll be heading straight to Les Alpes to celebrate our win this time.”
Grant and most of his team mates have lived in Queenstown for the past year-and-half and says they’re stoked to be representing NZ.
The tournament is based on the 2010 World Cup draw – 32 countries divided into eight pools. The games will be played at the Rec Ground on small pitches with seven-minute halves.
“It’ll be good to play as the underdog, though we’re considering ourselves the outside favourites,” Grant says.
“The fact NZ has qualified for the World Cup is fantastic for the sport here – we’ll be backing them when it’s actually on.”
The tournament kicks off with a Maori welcome and music at 12.15pm and teams who haven’t already registered can do so on the day before noon.
Entry is $30 with prizes donated by local businesses.