FOOTBALL supremo Ricki Herbert has revealed how a young Queenstown lad inspired him to set up a national academy for elite juniors in the resort.
Herbert, 48, says his brainwave occurred during a Winter Festival visit in June with his Wellington Phoenix side – while signing a ball for Hugo Evans, 12.
That boy’s mum, Sharon Evans – since taken on as an academy business manager – mentioned her son had attended the David Beckham Academy in Los Angeles.
“That kind of triggered it,”
Four months later the All Whites coach was back this week to kickstart his football school.
Herbert – whose New Zealand team is only one game away from qualifying for next year’s World Cup in South Africa – confirms his academy for nine- to 15-year-olds launches at Jack’s Point in January.
As a dry run, Herbert organised academy courses over the past school holidays in Christchurch and Wellington. Now he’s targeting 120 youngsters for the inaugural intake at Jack’s Point, under the tutelage of business partner and former Aussie pro Richard Johnson.
The 82 Football Academy is named after the first year the All Whites – which included Herbert – qualified for the World Cup. He’s confident some of that history-making squad, including captain Steve Sumner, will gather for the Queenstown launch.
Herbert also wants 2009 All Whites to have ongoing roles: “My ambition is to have good-profile players attached to the academy, in some small way or whatever.”
He confirms clothing giant Adidas has signed on as an academy partner. Depending on negotiations, there’ll later be a dedicated ground at Jack’s Point or Millbrook Resort. Local businessman Peter Waters has been recruited as another business manager and Queenstown chiropractor Neki Patel will handle health and nutrition.
Two leading Kiwi businessmen based here – Telecom chairman Wayne Boyd and marketing strategist Richard Smith – are patrons. Herbert appeals to local businesses to fund scholarships for less well-off kids. Four-day courses are $395.
His All Whites play Bahrain in Wellington on November 14 for the World Cup spot. The first leg in Bahrain was a 0-0 draw.