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On the ball: Jamie Whitmarsh

Queenstown’s Mr Football is a true-blue local now.

In an early Christmas present from Immigration New Zealand, Jamie Whitmarsh was granted permanent residency on December 23.

The popular former Londoner, now enjoying a summer break before his school holiday training camps start later this month, says it’s been a “long road”, but his new immigration status means the world to him.

“Being able to stay here forever – I don’t think you can put a price on that.”

Apart from a year spent coaching United States pro team New York Red Bulls, he’s lived in the resort since 2007.

But, because he has a mild form of cystic fibrosis – listed by INZ aas a chronic condition -he’s had an “absolute battle” with the department getting a medical waiver.

He’s responded to ongoing requests for medical information, despite the fact the condition doesn’t trouble him.

“I’m one of those lucky ones who’s fit and well.”

In 2016, he started an online petition to show the department he was making a significant contribution to the community – it was backed by a “mind-blowing” 564 people.

“Things like that are so humbling.”

Besides co-coaching Queenstown Rovers men’s football team, his new Whitmarsh Academy is taking up more and more of his time, with more than 50 boys and girls now on its books.

He’s driven to put Queenstown football “on the map” in this country, but sees his role as helping kids become better people as much as helping them become better footballers.

A particular focus this year’s going to be expanding his girls-only sessions, and get more mums and other women playing the game, he says.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz