Steve Sumner said it was a “proud experience” to be made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for Services to Football at Government House in Wellington on Tuesday.
Mr Steven Paul Sumner of Christchurch, who famously captained the All Whites to the 1982 FIFA World Cup, was presented with the award by the Governor General of New Zealand Dame Patsy Reddy during an Investiture ceremony.
The 61-year-old, who is battling prostate cancer, said it was very special to share the occasion with his family.
“I am honoured,” said Sumner.
“It is a privilege to have anything awarded to you from New Zealand, such a wonderful country. The support that I have had in my football career has been marvellous. I feel that I share everything that I earned over that time with a lot good footballing people in New Zealand.”
Sumner, a legend of Canterbury football who played a record 105 times for New Zealand between 1976 and 1988, singled out his 1982 All Whites team which made football history for the country.
“That was a great campaign for us and sort of kicked things off for football in New Zealand in many ways. That period raised the profile of the game when it needed a lift again and I feel privileged to share this with a lot of people. Football has given me so much and I give back to the game because it is my turn.”
The English-born Sumner is one of only four footballers to receive two FIFA Order of Merit awards, the world football governing body’s highest honour, and in August was recognised by Mainland Football with the grandstand at English Park named in his honour.
He has been a player, coach, administrator and philanthropist for football with The Centre Circle, a former players’ organisation which raises money for football development.
New Zealand Football CEO Andy Martin said Sumner was one of New Zealand Football’s favourite sons and he will leave a lasting legacy both on and off the pitch.
“Steve Sumner is a legend of our game and will be forever associated with one of our most successful periods after leading the 1982 team to the World Cup – our first-ever appearance on the biggest stage,” said Martin.
“He has made a massive contribution to football in New Zealand and served as an inspiration to many involved in the game. We congratulate him on his award and look forward to celebrating with him at the upcoming 125th anniversary of New Zealand Football.”
Sumner said he never looked for reward or award. He has many wonderful memories from his time in the game that are more than enough. The major one of course was the 1982 FIFA World Cup campaign. Sumner said it was a huge thrill as young men – the proverbial butcher, baker and candlestick maker – playing in the world’s No 1 sporting competition against the World’s No 1 sporting team which happened to be Brazil.
“That was the highlight of my career. I felt like I had my best game ever at that time. I had a wonderful time.”
He said “football stands still for no-one” and he took great delight in the heroics of the All Whites campaign at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is pleased with the improvement of Anthony Hudson’s side.
Sumner is looking forward to seeing the All Whites compete against New Caledonia on Saturday November 12 at QBE Stadium in Albany.
“We had a nice taste of these blokes in the States, can they step it up again? I think they will. This is a game with real meaning for us. Having just seen what they achieved in the USA I think our sporting public will support our boys and support them well.”
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football