Football great Steve Sumner dies

Steve Sumner, the All Whites captain who led the New Zealand side to the World Cup finals, has died. He was 61.

Steve Sumner. Photo: NZ Herald
Steve Sumner. Photo: NZ Herald

The Christchurch football great had been suffering from prostate cancer, after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease in August 2015.

Sumner, along with coaches John Adshead and Kevin Fallon, was central to one of the great New Zealand sporting campaigns, when an under-rated New Zealand side went on a record 15-game qualifying run that took them to the 1982 finals in Spain.

It was the first time New Zealand had qualified for the finals, something they have repeated just once since - in 2010.

New Zealand performed creditably there, losing to USSR, Brazil and Scotland.

Most pundits would agree that no one player has had a greater impact on New Zealand football than Sumner. Wynton Rufer was the best technical player this country has produced, and Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid have reached the rarefied heights of the English Premier League, but Sumner's influence was immense.

Sumner played 105 times for the All Whites (including 58 'A' internationals) over a 12-year period, scoring 27 goals.

He was a Christchurch United stalwart, winning a record seven Chatham Cups and five league titles. He received Fifa's highest honour - the Order of Merit award - in 2010 for services to football.

 

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