Seniors head to Bangkok to represent New Zealand at world cup for over-40s

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By Rachel Lilburn

They’re aged between 40 and 67, have been planning for a year … and now they’re off to represent New Zealand at the 16th Seniors World Cup in Thailand.

The 23-player New Zealand squad is one of eight teams going to the 2024 invitational tournament for over-40s organised by the Seniors Football Association of Thailand and supported by the Thai FA.

The inaugural tournament in 2006 was part of a government strategy to re-establish tourism after the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.

The annual seven-day tournament is held in a different province of Thailand each year, with this year’s tournament in the capital, Bangkok.

The New Zealand team will spend 10 days together, playing six games at the tournament, which runs from June 3-8, 2024.

Despite most games being played in the evenings, conditions are still hot and humid, often with 28-30-degree heat and an average humidity of 80%.

The playing format is four x 20-minute quarters.

The rules are specific on the age of players: three 40-44-year-olds, four players 45-49 and three over 50 must be on the field at any one time. This requires a very tactical approach for player rotations.

With many countries featuring ex-professionals and former internationals in their squads, the competition has historically been at a high level.

This year’s team are England (last year’s winners), New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The tournament includes a non-playing day, where all teams spend an afternoon with local children running coaching drills and games.

The New Zealand team ready to share gifts from home with local children at the 2023 tournament.

All teams are asked to bring some gifts to hand out to local children, such as football gear, balls and souvenirs from their home country and a great opportunity for the group to see the impact that giving back to the community can have.

In 2023’s tournament in Pathum Thani Province, the New Zealand team reached the major semi-finals for the first time and were narrowly defeated by the highly-talented (and four-time tournament winners) Iran side.

They opened last year’s tournament against the host country live on national Thai TV, with a Steve McMahon ‘worldly’ stunning the host nation and New Zealand winning 1-0.

Their second game saw the New Zealanders lose 1-0 to eventual tournament winners England, but the team more than deserved a share of the points, with the Kiwis surprising and, at times, panicking their highly-ranked opposition.

The third game saw the team draw 1-1 with the tournament’s surprise package, Indonesia.

New Zealand’s goal was a penalty, secured following a pacy run from Hayden Polyanszky into the box, and calmly put away by Peter Satos.

Progressing to the semi-final, New Zealand more than matched the Iranians, but unfortunately, the ruthlessness and quality of the Iranian finishing proved the difference.

The final game was the 3rd/4th playoff against Australia. The fifth game in six days, and less than 20 hours following the semi-final, tired bodies from both sides battled out a close game.

With nothing in the game and the sides locked 0-0 at the 90-minute mark, the game was destined for penalties, but the Aussies stole it at the death, and the New Zealand team finished a creditable fourth, the highest finish for New Zealand team at the tournament.

The touring party with local children at the 2023 tournament.

The 2024 squad is built around the core of last year’s group, with some key additions strengthening the team and all focused towards going ‘one step beyond’ and into a first-ever major final.

The management and organisation for 2024 has been led by Wellington-based player-coaches David Batty and Graham Little, with help and support from Dunedin City Royals’ youth academy director, Blair Scoullar, and team management assistant, David Copson.

The team is fully self-funded and is grateful for the sponsorship it has received helping the team with a new kit and casual New Zealand apparel.

The team thanks this year’s sponsors and supporters Dynasty Sport, ASL Aluminate Solutions, Autex Acoustic, HotChilly and Football Central.

A letter of support has been provided by New Zealand Football, wishing the team all the best, and looking to build a closer partnership with the team over the coming years.

“These tournaments provide excellent opportunities for all teams involved and enriches the overall football experience of the senior players involved, many of who have either represented NZF at age group, senior level or played in our National League competition,” the letter says.

16th Seniors World Cup (40+)

Bangkok, Thailand
June 3-8, 2024

More information

If you are interested in getting involved in future tournaments, contact David Batty at

Rachel Lilburn

Taupo-based Rachel Lilburn is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.

You can read more of her stories here >>>>

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