Gold Coast, Christchurch – here we come

THE cancellation of Wellington Phoenix FC’s planned tour to China is a boon for football fans on the Gold Coast and in Christchurch.

THE cancellation of Wellington Phoenix FC-s planned tour to China is a boon for football fans on the Gold Coast and in Christchurch.

In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, the Wellington-based Hyundai A-League club was forced to call off its planned three-match June tour of China. The cancellation left a substantial hole in the Phoenix-s pre-season build-up to their second season in the Hyundai A-League.

However, club officials have now arranged for the full Phoenix playing squad to undertake two significant pre-season trips, to the Gold Coast in the coming days and to Christchurch in July.

The Phoenix depart for the Gold Coast – home to the Hyundai A-League-s newest club, Gold Coast United FC – on Sunday (June 15) to begin a five-day visit that will see the New Zealand-based team take on a Gold Coast Premier League side and a Gold Coast Selection XI.

Then, on July 11, the Phoenix will begin a five-day trip to the southern football stronghold of Christchurch. While in the Garden City the Phoenix will play a Mainland Selection XI at QEII Park on July 12 as well as host clinics for the region-s elite football coaches and players. The visitors will also be the guests of honour at a fundraising gala dinner staged by Mainland Football.

Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said the two trips would be valuable exercises for the club as it continued gearing up for the start of the new season.

“The intention was always to get away for a while – that was the thinking behind the China trip. Unfortunately that had to be cancelled and as a result we looked at other options. We-re happy that in a short timeframe we-ve been able to organise these two trips to the Gold Coast and Christchurch and that we can continue our pre-season preparations.”

With the intense travel schedule posed by the Hyundai A-League, Pignata said it was important for the Phoenix to experience travelling and playing as a group before the season kicked off.

“It-s important for us to get used to travelling as group overseas to Australia – that-s something we-ll be doing pretty much every second week during the competition season. The priority is to continue the process of getting the team to bond and to spend some time away from our usual environment.

“The pre-season is a long time. We-ve been training very hard since April 1 and it-ll do the team good to get away and enjoy some different scenery but to continue working hard and playing some competitive games.”

Pignata said the club was very excited about the visit to Christchurch.

“Mainland Football and the Christchurch City Council have been fantastic in helping put this together. It-s a great chance for us to show our thanks for the support we have in Christchurch and to continue growing the profile of football in New Zealand.

“We are a Wellington team but we-re also a part of the whole New Zealand football landscape.”