A special trophy honouring one of New Zealand football’s greatest players will be at stake on Saturday when Auckland City play Waiheke United in the Northern League.
Auckland City won the Steve Sumner Cup at the inaugural Waiheke Festival of Football in September 2017, beating Hamilton Wanderers 5-2.
The trophy — named after the legendary All Whites captain who died from prostate cancer in February 2017 — has not been played for since.
However, Saturday’s trophy challenge was agreed when Auckland City chair Ivan Vuksich caught up with former Waiheke United president Mike Gray at this month’s Friends of Football World Cup supporters’ lunch in Auckland.
Explained Gray: “I suggested we should play for the trophy given it started on Waiheke five years ago with Auckland City and they hold it.”
Gray, who was the donor of the trophy, said it was Waiheke United’s 35th anniversary this year.
As it was also the 1982 All Whites’ 40th anniversary, he had also invited members of that squad to come to Saturday’s game as guests of the club.
Gray said he had met Sumner a couple of times, at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Christchurch and at the 2016 NZ Football Awards.
An admirer of the midfielder, Gray’s GO Media outdoor advertising company acknowledged Sumner on digital billboards in Christchurch after he lost his battle with prostate cancer.
Sumner’s daughter, Tori, contacted Gray to thank him, and she flew to Auckland to present the trophy to winners Auckland City.
Gray says he would love to see the trophy become like rugby’s Ranfurly Shield with challengers trying to take it off holders in games played throughout the country.
For the moment, he’ll be happy watching Waiheke United challenge for the trophy on Saturday, especially as the club has risen through four tiers of competition since the trophy was last played for.
The club won promotion to the Northern League after taking last season’s Lotto NRFL first division title.
The club is struggling in the relegation zone this year and they’ll face an Auckland City who appear to be running away with the league.
Can lowly Waiheke take the trophy off the league leaders?
Anything can happen in a game of football … and Steve Sumner proved that many times.
Main photo: Auckland City captain Angel Berlanga receives the Steve Sumner Cup from Tori Sumner in 2017.