Friday, April 30, 2010

Kiwis Amateurish? Well, Actually ...

This story is heart-warming. Or a stunning indictment.

Take your choice. Want to feel good about New Zealand's World Cup team? Or would you prefer to feel sorry for it?

The Kiwis may very well show up at South Africa 2010 with an amateur player in their ranks.

Which is a nice sidebar, but probably doesn't bode well for their chances of escaping Group F ... with a point ... or even a goal.

Not that anyone thought much of their chances beforehand.

The amateur in question is Barron, a banker by day, an unpaid midfielder for the Wellington club team by night.

It's not as if he has never put in time for the New Zealand national side. He came on as a substitute in the Kiwis' biggest victory in 28 years, the 1-0 decision over Bahrain in a playoff for a World Cup berth.

But, generally, World Cup players are paid millions of dollars by club teams to ply their trade. Or at least hundreds of thousands. Even non-traditional soccer nations such as South Korea, Japan, the United States ... all their guys are pro.

(North Korean players do not play for pay, but they might well be able to, if their bizarre government allowed them.)

Barron is being given time off by his employer to practice with the All Whites, and appears to stand a very good chance of making the roster ... of the least-fancied (as the Brits would say) side in the tournament. Behind even the hosts and the North Koreans.

But how many bankers can say they went to the World Cup as players?

Barron realizes not many (if any) other amateurs will appear at the tournament. "I can't imagine there will be many others there," he said.

New Zealand, with an amateur.

Isn't that cute?

Isn't that pitiful?
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