The vision of building a football club for future generations to enjoy has driven Cambridge’s Peter Martens for more than 40 years as a volunteer.

He says his passion for Cambridge Football Club, and the support of his family, kept him going “when the rain was coming down and there was still more work to be done” at the club’s grounds.

Martens’ efforts have been recognised in the New Year’s honours in which he has received a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for his services to football.

“It’s taken me a bit by surprise,” Martens, 70, said of his honour.

“There are many volunteers in sport who give up so much of their time and part of me feels a bit guilty that I’ve been singled out. I prefer to think that my honour is a way of recognising all the volunteers in sport.”

Martens, who is currently on an overseas holiday, has not had chance yet to celebrate with fellow club members and others in the Waikato football community.

“There are so many I want to thank, as well as members of my family who encouraged me all along,” he said.

Over four decades, thousands of young Waikato footballers have benefitted from the growth of Cambridge FC since Martens first joined as a junior player in 1957.

“The club was less than 10 years old then and had only a few teams,” he said.

When injury ended his own playing days, he began coaching children’s teams in 1973 and soon after was elected to the club’s executive committee.

He has coached, refereed and managed teams, as well as serving as an administrator at club and regional levels.

After a spell overseas in the late 1970s, he returned to New Zealand in 1981 and re-joined the club’s committee a year later. He became club secretary (1985-87) and was first elected club president in 1987 – a role he has held ever since.

In November, he chaired his 30th Annual General Meeting.

Colleagues say Martens has always been a “roll your sleeves up” administrator and can still be found putting up goal nets, cleaning clubrooms and cheering on senior and junior teams alike.

“Peter leads by example and would never expect other volunteers to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself,” club chair Steve Thomas said.

Club secretary Josh Easby said Martens relaxed approach encouraged other volunteers and helped them to believe anything was possible.

“Our recent growth has seen us become one of the largest clubs in our region and it can put pressure on volunteers as the workload grows. But Peter takes everything in his stride and keeps us smiling,” he said.

As well as leading Cambridge FC, Martens’ award also recognises his contribution to regional administration of the sport, serving 13 years with the Waikato Football Association, six years with the Northern Provincial Council and helping with the establishment of what is now the WaiBOP Football Federation.

Martens said he remains positive about football’s future in the region and is already looking at directing his energy to ways in which the sport can continue to prosper.

“In 1921, we’ll be celebrating 100 years of organised football in Cambridge as that was when a previous club was established in our town, the forerunner of what we have today,” he said.

“These days, the challenges for volunteers are greater than ever and I believe clubs need to look at innovative ways to work together if we’re going to cope with the continuing growth of numbers wanting to play.”

Story courtesy of Cambridge FC