AUCKLAND – The All Whites have enjoyed a special send off at Auckland Airport today as the New Zealand-based players head for South Africa to represent Oceania at next month’s FIFA Confederations Cup.
Guests from CanTeen – an organisation supporting young people living with cancer – shared afternoon tea with the players and received footballs and signed shirts before the All Whites embarked on their one-month tour.
New Zealand will play international friendlies against Tanzania, Botswana and World Champions Italy in the next two weeks before meeting Spain, South Africa and Iraq at the FIFA Confederations Cup.
All White defender Ben Sigmund, who has been heavily involved in CanTeen during his time with the Wellington Phoenix, says the CanTeeners are a constant source of inspiration.
“They touch your heart. They’re awesome, they’re happy and they’ve had a good time today so hopefully we can stay involved and do what we can to help.”
Sigmund added that the team intends to stay in touch with the young fans during the trip.
New Zealand will initially set up camp in Botswana before heading to South Africa on June 9 to prepare for Italy and the FIFA Confederations Cup. The eight-nation tournament, which takes place in Johannesburg, Mangaung/Bloemfontein, Rustenburg and Tshwane/Pretoria from 14 to 28 June, will also include Brazil, Italy, Egypt and USA in Group B.
Coach Ricki Herbert is excited about the talent within the squad but says he has not yet decided on a starting line-up.
“Leading into the tournament we’ll have a chance to test combinations against some decent competition.”
With a lengthy tour ahead of them, Herbert says it will be important to focus on one game at a time.
NEW ZEALAND SCHEDULE
New Zealand v Tanzania
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
June 3, 4pm (1am, June 4 NZT)
New Zealand v Botswana
June 6, 4pm (2am, June 7 NZT)
New Zealand v Italy
Pretoria, South Africa
June 10, 8.45pm (6.45am, June 11 NZT)
FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009
New Zealand v Spain
June 14, 8.30pm (6.30am, June 15 NZT)
New Zealand v South Africa
June 17 (6.30am, June 18 NZT)
New Zealand v Iraq
June 20 (6.30am, June 21 NZT)