Academy to stage inaugural Manaaki Invitational

The Wellington Phoenix academy is welcoming young female footballers from the U.S.A. and Japan to play a new tournament in the Hutt Valley.

The inaugural Manaaki Invitational will be played over three days next week, when the U.S. and Japanese national sides are in Wellington for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Two youth teams from J-League club Shonan Bellmare, as well as American sides representing Soccer.com and California FC will play matches against Phoenix academy teams and each other.

The academy’s Fraser Park training base in Lower Hutt will play host to the first two days of the tournament next Thursday and Friday (July 27 and 28), with the final game to be staged at the state-of-the-art New Zealand Campus of Innovation and Sport (NZCIS) in Upper Hutt on Sunday (July 30).

The Phoenix academy is also hosting 25 representatives from United Soccer Coaches and will hold a coaching seminar on Friday morning.

The Phoenix U-15s celebrate scoring a goal. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

Academy operations manager Eilish Graves is thrilled to be hosting Shonan Bellmare, Soccer.com, California FC and United Soccer Coaches next week.

“The main focus of the Manaaki Invitational is to show respect and hospitality to the visiting teams during their stay in Aotearoa New Zealand for the FIFA Women’s World Cup,” Graves said. “It’s all really in the name!

“As well as the games, which we as an academy are excited for, we are looking forward to the opportunity for our players and coaches to connect with their international peers.

“We’re sure the Manaaki Invitational will provide a unique experience for all involved and will be the beginning of many lasting friendships.”

Academy female development lead Katie Barrott says there is a real buzz around the academy with the FIFA Women’s World Cup on their doorstep.

Female development lead Katie Barrott talks to players from the Phoenix U-15s. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

“We are really proud to be hosting teams from the U.S.A. and Japan during the World Cup,” Barrott said. “We want to be a female programme that is world class, and having the opportunity to learn and explore what other female academies are doing is something that really excites me.

“To expose our players to different styles of play, different cultures and different players is a massive part of their development.

“They are all excited not only for the football opportunity it presents, but also the chance to make new friendships and understand different cultures.”

The public are welcome to watch all the matches during the Manaaki Invitational, with the playing schedule below.

Thursday, July 27

7:30-8:30am – Shonan Bellmare (younger age-group) vs Phoenix U-15s – Fraser Park Turf

8:35-9:35am – Soccer.com vs Phoenix U-17s – Fraser Park Turf

9:35-10:35am – Shonan Bellmare (older age-group) vs Phoenix reserves – Fraser Park Turf

Friday, July 28

12:30-1:30pm – Shonan Bellmare (older age-group) vs Soccer.com – Fraser Park Turf

1:45-2:45pm – California FC U-14s s Phoenix U-15s – Fraser Park Turf

3:00-4:30pm – Soccer.com vs Phoenix reserves – Fraser Park Turf

4:45-5:45pm – Shonan Bellmare (younger age-group) vs California FC U-14s – Fraser Park Turf

Sunday, July 30

9am – Phoenix U-17s vs California FC U-14s – NZCIS