PREVIEW: Five reasons why Sunday’s Charity Cup is a must-watch match

Coaches and players facing their former clubs, a test of early season form … and a chance to take home the first silverware of 2024.

The relaunch of the Charity Cup has conjured an early opportunity to see two of New Zealand’s best sides go head-to-head.

The Charity Cup brings together the winners of the men’s National League, Wellington Olympic, and Chatham Cup winners Christchurch United.

Main photo: Christchurch United qualified for the Charity Cup when they beat Melville United in the 2023 Chatham Cup final. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Sunday’s match at Wellington’s Martin Luckie Park (1pm) provides plenty of reasons to watch it either at the ground, or streamed free and live on FIFA+ (see link below).

Here are five of those reasons …

Christchurch United head coach Ryan Edwards … “It just heightens the kind of intent you put towards the game.”

1. New coaches for both clubs

The coaches in both dugouts will face their former clubs.

Olympic’s coaching duo of Paul Ifill and Ekow Quainoo joined the club in late 2023 after leading Christchurch United to their triple success of winning the Chatham Cup, the Southern League and the English Cup.

READ MORE: Paul Ifill takes Director of Football role with national champs Wellington Olympic >>>>

They were replaced by United’s new head coach, Ryan Edwards, who moved south from Wellington club Petone.

Edwards played seven seasons for Wellington Olympic (2007-2014), helping them win the Chatham Cup in 2009, and had another two-season spell with the club before switching to Petone in May 2023.

Edwards told Star News the personal connections between the cup finalists would make it a good match.

“It just heightens the kind of intent you put towards the game.”

Eddie Wilkinson … has joined Wellington Olympic from Christchurch United. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

2. New-look squads

Both clubs have lost and gained key players during the summer.

Olympic have added U-23 international Jesse Randall (back from Charleston Battery in the United States) and Jonty Roubos, who has crossed town from Miramar Rangers.

The club has also signed Eddie Wilkinson (23), one of Christchurch United’s main attacking threats last season.

But Olympic will be without without last season’s Golden Boot winner, Gianni Bouzoukis, and defender Jack Cawley, both of whom have moved to Australia.

Winger Joel Stevens has switched clubs, leaving Olympic to join Christchurch United. Photo: Dave Lintott / Phototek.

Christchurch United have gained former New Zealand international winger Joel Stevens, a three-cap All White.

Stevens (29) has joined United from Wellington Olympic for the 2024 season.

United’s main loss has been leading goalscorer Sam Philip (24), who found the net 29 times in last season’s Southern League. He’s joined Northern League club Birkenhead United.

Former Irish age group international Eoghan Stokes (27), who scored 15 goals last season, has left United to join Australian club Port Melbourne.

United have also lost experienced winger Dan MacLennan (32) who has returned to his former club, Melbourne’s Nunawading City, who play in the Victoria Premier League 2. He scored eight goals in United’s last Southern League campaign.

Wellington Olympic are crowned national champions after beating Auckland City in November’s grand final at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

3. Vital clues for OFC Champions League

The Charity Cup will be Wellington Olympic’s chance for a full run-out before facing Auckland City in a two-legged play-off to decide which club will represent New Zealand at the OFC Men’s Champions League.

Olympic travel to Auckland for the first leg at Kiwitea St on Saturday March 9; the teams then head to the capital for the second leg on Saturday March 16.

Be sure that Auckland City’s head coach Albert Riera and his coaching staff will carefully analyse Olympic’s performance in the Charity Cup.

4. An early chance to win silverware

The Charity Cup provides both clubs with their first chance to land a trophy in 2024.

But who’ll win it?

Olympic have been in pre-season training longer than their rivals, knowing they have their upcoming showdown with Auckland City.

United coach Edwards told Star News he thought Olympic’s earlier pre-season campaign would give them an advantage.

“They’ll be at the end of their pre-season in terms of match readiness, and we’re at the start of ours, so it’s not a very balanced position to be going into,” he said.

5. A treat for armchair fans

Partnerships between NZ Football, OFC and FIFA+ mean more live football will be on offer to New Zealand football fans in 2024 than ever before.

FIFA+ will stream the Charity Cup live and free (follow the link below).


Game to be played on Sunday March 3, 2024

Charity Cup

Wellington Olympic v Christchurch United
Martin Luckie Park, Wellington, 1pm

About the Charity Cup

Tickets for the match will be free but spectators are invited to make a charity donation at the gate.

As the host club, Wellington Olympic have chosen Heart Kids New Zealand as their nominated charity to receive the proceeds.

The Charity Cup has been previously known as the NZFA Challenge Trophy (1978-1987), and the ASB Charity Cup.

The cup was last contested in February 2021 when Auckland City beat Team Wellington 3-1.

Despite being the holders, Auckland City are not eligible to defend the trophy as the Charity Cup is a pre-season fixture to pair the winners of the Men’s National League (Wellington Olympic) and the winners of the Chatham Cup (Christchurch United).

Auckland City won the trophy for the 2020-21 season, beating Tem Wellington 3-1 at Kiwitea Street. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

It’s the first since this version of the Charity Cup was introduced in 2011 that Auckland City have not been in the final.

Past winners

NZFA Challenge Trophy

1978 Manurewa AFC 2-0 Christchurch United
1980 University-Mount Wellington 3-1 North Shore United
1981 University-Mount Wellington 2-0 Gisborne City
1982 Wellington United 1-1 (5-4 pens) Dunedin City
1983 University-Mount Wellington 1-0 North Shore United
1984 Manurewa AFC 2-1 University-Mount Wellington
1985 Gisborne City 1-0 Manurewa AFC
1986 Wellington United 2-0 Napier City Rovers
1987 North Shore United 3-0 University-Mount Wellington

Charity Cup

2011 Auckland City 3-2 Waitakere United
2012 Waitakere United 2-1 Auckland City
2013 Auckland City 4-1 Waitakere United
2014 Team Wellington 2-2 (4-3 pens) Auckland City
2015 Auckland City 3-0 Team Wellington
2016 Auckland City 3-1 Team Wellington
2017 Team Wellington 3-1 Auckland City
2018 Auckland City 4-3 Team Wellington
2019 Auckland City 2-0 Eastern Suburbs
2020 Auckland City 3-1 Team Wellington

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