Friends of Football joins all those in our sport who are mourning the loss of former All Whites captain Steve Sumner who has lost his battle with prostate cancer aged 61.
The legend of New Zealand Football, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in September 2015, endured six rounds of chemotherapy and defied the odds before his health deteriorated.
Steve passed away, surrounded by his family, at his Christchurch home on February 8, 2017.
New Zealand Football Chief Executive Andy Martin said Sumner’s passing was a sad day for the football community in this country.
“First and foremost our thoughts go out to his family and friends in their time of grieving. Steve was not only a great footballer, but he was also a great man and he will be sorely missed,” said Martin.
The CEO said Sumner will be remembered as one of the most influential footballers this country has ever produced.
“What he and the All Whites team from 1982 achieved in that FIFA World Cup campaign put New Zealand on the world football map and his legacy will last forever,” he said.
“We were fortunate to have a great time with Steve at the 125th anniversary of New Zealand Football last year and it was a special occasion for him, in particular, to reflect on all the amazing moments he was part of in the All Whites and in New Zealand Football.”
After serving an apprenticeship with Blackpool, the English-born Sumner came to New Zealand in 1976 to begin his football career with Christchurch United where he won the League title in his first season.
Sumner went on to win six Chatham Cup titles – the only player to have won six Chatham Cup winner’s medals – and five league titles.
The attacking midfielder’s international career spanned from 1976 to 1988 where he represented a record 105 times, 58 of which were A internationals where he scored 22 goals.
He holds the record for the most goals scored in an international when he scored six goals during New Zealand’s 13–0 defeat of Fiji during the 1982 World Cup qualifying campaign.
His goal in the 5-2 loss to Scotland in the 1982 World Cup was the first from an Oceania player at a FIFA World Cup and he was one of only two scorers for New Zealand from that tournament, alongside Steve Wooddin.
In 1991, Sumner’s feats for the All Whites were recognised when he was inducted into the New Zealand Soccer Media Association Hall of Fame.
In 2010 he was awarded FIFA’s top award, the FIFA Order of Merit, before the opening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, along with Johan Cruyff and former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
In 2015, Sumner was awarded Friends of Football’s Medal of Excellence in recognition of his career achievements.
Last year, New Zealand Football ran a ‘Play it For Steve’ campaign during the Chatham Cup which raised awareness for Prostate Cancer and it well supported by football clubs around the country which was a mark of respect for the man.
Also in 2016, the grandstand at English Park in Christchurch was renamed ‘The Steve Sumner Stand’ in his honour. A staunchly proud Cantabrian, Sumner was humbled by the occasion.
In October, Sumner was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for Services to Football at Government House in Wellington. Mr Steven Paul Sumner of Christchurch, surrounded by his family, was presented with the award by the Governor-General of New Zealand Dame Patsy Reddy during the Investiture ceremony (see main photo).
He will be remembered as a great of New Zealand Football and New Zealand sport.