Ten young Maori and Pacific Island children had the time of their lives on Friday when they joined the Wellington Phoenix players for the afternoon.
The youngsters, from the decile one Kelvin Road School in Papakura, love their football but their parents have never been able to afford to buy them boots to play in.
That all changed on Friday thanks to an initiative by the Phoenix and West Ham United-s Maori defender Winston Reid.
The Phoenix partnered with Winston Reid’s Aotearoa Footballers- Charitable Trust, Maori Football New Zealand and Banks Shoes to help the kids get a taste of professional football.
Winston Reid who is of Maori descent, set up the Charitable Trust following the All White-s 2010 World Cup campaign with three other All Whites of Maori descent (Leo Bertos, Jeremy Christie and Rory Fallon).
Thanks to one of the Phoenix- supporters, Banks Shoes, the kids all left the Eastern Suburbs ground where the Phoenix trained with a new pair of boots each.
They had even been able to enjoy a kick around with New Zealand-s only professional footballers, but the best was yet to come.
They were invited to join the players and staff for dinner at the Grand Rendezvous Hotel, where they were all presented with a Phoenix shirt, and then joined in with the players for one of the club-s traditions.
The first time a player or member of staff travels away from Wellington with the team they are expected to stand on a chair and sing a song, which is a daunting experience for even the most confident person.
To a boy or girl they joined in the chanting for a reluctant singer and then to cap the night off three of the budding football stars – Amelia Luselu, Taitimu-Lee Harrison and Roine Sinanoa – stood in front of players and staff and literally sang for their supper.
Everyone loved it and it is fair to say the smiles never left their little faces for the whole afternoon.
There will be some smiles too when the players return to their families and tell the story of the day the Maori kids from Kelvin Road School wowed a bunch of professional footballers.