New Zealand's 1982 World Cup hero Sumner dies
New Zealand football plunged into mourning yesterday with the death of former national captain Steve Sumner, who led the side to their first World Cup Finals in Spain in 1982.
Sumner was 61 and had been suffering from prostate cancer.
"What he and the All Whites team from 1982 achieved in that World Cup campaign put New Zealand on the world football map and his legacy will last forever," New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said.
"The gang of '82 kick-started football in New Zealand and we wouldn't be here today without what they did.
"Steve will be remembered as a tough player who shook New Zealand, a rugby country, into realising there was something else out there called football."
An attacking midfielder, Sumner was born in England and spent his youth career at Blackpool and Preston North End before moving to New Zealand in 1973 and settling in Christchurch.
He carved out a successful club career, mostly with Christchurch United.
Sumner won five league championships and six Chatham Cup titles, which is New Zealand's equivalent of England's FA Cup.
It was on the international stage for his adopted nation, however, that Sumner made the most important mark.
He played 105 times for New Zealand, 58 of which were classed as "A" internationals from 1976-88, and dragged them through a torturous 15-game qualifying campaign to make the World Cup Finals in Spain.
He scored New Zealand's first goal in their 5-2 loss to Scotland and led the side with distinction as they lost 3-0 to Soviet Union and 4-0 to Brazil in their other group games, which helped put the Oceania region on the global stage.
"The achievements of Steve and the team during that World Cup campaign created a strong legacy for New Zealand Football, and also the Oceania region," Oceania Football Confederation president David Chung said.
"It is truly a sad day and I know Steve will be greatly missed by many." - REUTERS