Words: Terry Maddaford
Wednesday 30 September 2009
Picture: Phototek NZ
Is Ivan Vuksich the new Charlie Dempsey?
In a move reminiscent of Dempsey’s famous “my heart’s with you in the back of the plane but my bum is in first class” quote from the 1982 World Cup campaign, the revered Auckland City chairman yesterday jumped off the team bus for the 145km trip from Dubai to take his seat in a rather-more-plush Lexus.
But, to be fair, Ivan the venerable, there is nothing terrible about this club’s patriarch, was genuinely coy in having to abandon his seat in the 50-seater to speed south. It was not as great as it sounds, however, as he had a rather stuttering journey while the bus whisked along without a hitch.
Yesterday, like the third round of a golf tournament, was moving day as the party -- the numbers boosted by the early-morning arrival of more supporters (who wasted no time in checking out the super-impressive Dubai Mall) -- bade farewell to the Movenpick Hotel.
Like any FIFA tournament, there was an air of military precision in shifting the massive mountain of luggage even if the scheduled noon departure stretched to 1pm.
The players had their last training run at host club Al Nasr -- a session which was supposed to be light but in the end impressed coach Paul Posa as the players shrugged off any hangover effects of the 2-1 win the night before -- before returning to pack up and head off.
The focus now is on Wednesday night’s Club World Cup clash with UAE champions Al Ahli. Local opinion suggests City are fully capable of winning and booking their place in the second phase and with it the guarantee of at least two more games.
The City squad left Dubai buoyed by the news that fullbacks James Pritchett and Ian Hogg along with Ki-Hyung Lee and Chad Coombes had been named in the first NZFC team of the month with Posa named as coach of the month. Former City keeper Ross Nicholson, now between the sticks at YoungHeart Manawatu, was also named in the team.
The arrival at the Beach Rotana Hotel -- an impressive waterfront complex -- was something of an eye-opener for those players who had not experienced FIFA’s security before.
There is a visible police/security presence on the top floor of the hotel -- where all members of the extended party will stay. There was also an early edict that before leaving the hotel security must be informed.
And, it seems, in the case of the players, they can only venture away from the hotel if accompanied by one of the security staff. A far cry from previous trips to Tokyo. The non-playing members of the party have yet to ascertain whether a trip to the shopping mall next door will demand the same scrutiny.
The coaching staff were late arrivals in Abu Dhabi.
Posa, assistant coaches Ramon Tribulietx, Stipe Saric and goalkeeping coach/video man Simon Eaddy took a detour to watch a local league match involving Wednesday’s opponent Al Ahli. That game gave the players their first look at the 2008 UAE champions with the game shown live at the hotel with Posa sprung as a spy in the stands as Al Ahli won 3-0 in an impressive dress rehearsal for the big one.
Later the players gathered in the team meeting room after dinner to watch the World Cup draw live from Cape Town.
Today it will be back to the more serious business of preparing for the task at hand -- the chase for a decent slice of the US$16.5million up for grabs by the time the tournament ends on December 19.
Sun 29 Nov 2020, Kiwitea Street, Kick-off: 2pm