In New Zealand, Association Football which is sometimes called soccer, or just football, is one of the top recreational sports. Administered by the country’s governing body called NZF or New Zealand Football, Association Football holds the distinction of being the 3rd most popular team sport for men following cricket and rugby union.
Young New Zealanders also enjoy football, with it being the nation’s most popular sport among boys between the ages of 5 and 17. It is also popular with girls, ranking 5th in popularity. 7% of adults in New Zealand play football regularly.
In 1923, the first ever Chatham Cup final was held. Still held today, it is now the longest running football club national competition in New Zealand. The senior men’s All Whites team has twice qualified to participate in the FIFA World Cup and while they were unsuccessful, they still held the accolade of being the team that had played the most matches and travelled the furthest distance to qualify.
In 2009, the country’s team participated in the Confederations Cup and it was during this competition that they earned their first point in a FIFA tournament for senior men. New Zealand’s team for under 23s, known as the Oly-Whites, appeared at the Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing, although the ended up losing to Brazil and Belgium.
At present, the ISPS Handa Premiership is the national competition for senior male players. This is a semi-professional/professional franchise league which was established in 2004. Running through the summer, there are 10 teams within the league: Waitakere United, Auckland City, Eastern Suburbs, Hawke’s Bay United, Hamilton Wanderers, Team Wellington, Canterbury United, Southern United and Eastern United. There is also the Wellington Phoenix reserves. It is this premiership which supplies the two representatives of New Zealand for the OFC Champions league, and those representatives are the champion of the season together with the playoffs’ winner.
Before the ISPS Handa Premiership (in its earlier incarnation) was founded, the National Soccer League was the main national football competition for senior men. Established in 1970, this competition was made up of teams which belonged to regional leagues.
Another national competition is the Chatham Cup. This is a knockout competition rather like the FA Cup in England. It is also the country’s oldest football competition having been played since 1923. This competition is only open to clubs which are involved in the winter regional competitions and NZFC sides cannot compete, and Wellington Phoenix FC is also prevented from participating.