Trophy packs in crowd

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More than 100 footballing fanatics flocked to the Oamaru Showgrounds yesterday for the official FIFA Under 20 Football World Cup roadshow being held in New Zealand next year.

The roadshow featured the official tournament trophy, which has been lifted by some of the world’s greatest footballers including Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, Ashley Cole and Andres Iniesta.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the event was fantastic for Oamaru.

“It’s great to see such a highly regarded tournament coming to the smaller areas to promote the game and what is coming to New Zealand.”

Mr Kircher said football was popular in Oamaru and it was great seeing the locals get in behind the event.

“Next year, we host a fantastic tournament and it’s pleasing to see so many of the young footballers here to support what will be a showpiece event for the region with games in Dunedin.”

Football Waitaki chairman Phill Collings said the day was all about promoting one of the world’s showpiece tournaments to locals.

“It’s one of the biggest tournaments in the world and is FIFA’s second most-watched tournament behind the Football World Cup. It’s from here where the real stars are found.”

Mr Collings said it was massive for football in Oamaru to have something like this come to the city.

“It’s huge for the sport of Oamaru. It’s a chance for footballers in the area to see a trophy lifted by some of the sport’s superstars such like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta,” he said.

St Kevin’s College first XI captain Jai Narayan said it was an honour to see such a prestigious trophy.

“It’s awesome; we at St Kevin’s are honoured to be a part of helping with the official roadshow here in Oamaru. So many great players have held this trophy.”

Former All White Midfielder Mike McGarry, capped 87 times, said it was great to see the smaller provinces get behind the roadshow.

“The idea of the roadshow is to promote the event to the smaller towns and let them know that this world class event is happening on their doorstep, with seven games in Dunedin,” he said.

By BRAYDEN LINDSAY

PHOTO: BRAYDEN LINDSAY

PROUD AS PUNCH: St Kevin’s College footballers Paul Papaioannou and Raj Singh with the FIFA Under 20 World Cup at the Oamaru Showgrounds yesterday.