TongaFootball > News > 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ > Sumner to play in All-Star match

Sumner to play in All-Star match

Sumner will return to South Africa to play in the match just two weeks after gaining football’s highest honour. During the FIFA Congress in South Africa on June 9 and 10, Sumner will receive the FIFA Order of Merit.
The two teams will play for a trophy called the Unity Cup and their line-ups will include celebrities, famous former footballers and Special Olympics athletes.
The match is set to be played before an international audience of thousands and its aim is to encourage everyone involved to reject stereotypes, prejudices and misconceptions, and replace them with an attitude of inclusion, acceptance and diversity.
“I am humbled and extremely privileged to be receiving the FIFA Order of Merit when I look at some of the great names who have received this honour in the past,” says Sumner.
“But it’s also a tremendous privilege to take part in the Unity Cup, too. I’m sure the match itself will be fun but more important to me is being able to help make a difference. Special Olympics is a wonderful organisation that fosters hope, encouragement and acceptance and it deserves great support from all.”
Representing New Zealand alongside Sumner will be North Harbour Special Olympics centre forward Mark Liggins. The 36-year-old took up football at the age of 10 and has been playing seriously for the past five years. He will travel to South Africa with Sumner and his coach, Kevin Hodges.
“Athletes weren’t chosen from all the countries that qualified and we are, of course, absolutely thrilled that one of our footballers will be playing in the match,” says Mike Ryan, Special Olympics New Zealand national sports and coaching director.
“To have Steve Sumner playing as well is just fantastic. When we invited Steve to join Mark on the pitch, he accepted without hesitation. He has such a fantastic attitude about it and didn’t even blink when it meant that he would be hopping back on a flight to Cape Town two weeks after accepting his Order of Merit in Johannesburg.”
Each squad will contain seven Special Olympics athletes and seven celebrities. Sumner, who captained New Zealand at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, will be joined by FIFA ambassador for Oceania Christian Karembeu and fellow notable names like Clarence Seedorf, Alan Shearer, Lucas Radebe, Abedi Pele, Kevin Keegan, Hidetoshi Nakata, Alex Aguinaga and Teo Cubillas.
South African President Jacob Zuma will also be involved and the game will be televised around the world.
“This is another milestone for Special Olympics New Zealand,” says Tai Nicholas, General Secretary of the Oceania Football Confederation. “We not only have Mark Liggins participating, we also have Steve, who is a great ambassador for the game in New Zealand and Oceania. It’s fantastic to have somebody with a FIFA Order of Merit involved and, if the match is televised live, it will increase the profile of Special Olympics New Zealand, not only here but also overseas.”
Story courtesy of Special Olympics New Zealand
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