History | Soccer in New Zealand

History of Soccer in New Zealand

New Zealand Football

The governing body, New Zealand Football, oversees the country’s seven Football federations, as well as the New Zealand national football team (the “All Whites”), the national junior and women's teams ("Football Ferns"), the men's and women's national Leagues ISPS Handa Premiership, National Women's League, and some tournaments, including the Chatham Cup and Women's Knockout Cup.

Post-war history

After the second world war, South Africa visited New Zealand to play a four-test series, with each international taking place at rugby venues. At the beginning of the 1950s, New Zealand soccer toured in the South Pacific. In 1957, FK Austria was the first European club to visit New Zealand. In 1961 an English FA XI led by Tom Finney visited, followed by Manchester United in 1967.

In 1964, New Zealand made its first major overseas tour, playing 15 matches in Asia, Europe, the UK and the US. In 1979, the All Whites second major overseas tour saw them play 10 matches against the Middle East and UK teams.

1982 World Cup run

  • New Zealand's qualifying campaign to the World Cup campaign in Spain began with Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) games. New Zealand faced Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia and Fiji, a team the All Whites beat in a record World Cup soccer score of 13-0.

  • Although New Zealand finished top of its World Cup qualifying zone, it still faced further play-offs against Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the People's Republic of China. New Zealand and China were locked together in second place, forcing a playoff in Singapore in January 1982. New Zealand won 2-1 after goals by Steve Wooddin and 19-year-old striker Wynton Rufer. This gave New Zealand a place in the first-ever 24-nation World Cup Finals, to play and lose against Russia (3-0), Scotland (5-2) and Brazil (4-0).

  • New Zealand’s success in getting to the World Cup led to a surge of interest in soccer and the introduction of a Centres of Excellence programme which has reaped many rewards over the last two decades, particularly with the New Zealand Under-17 squad and the Junior Ferns.

New Zealand continues to do well at both the Youth (U-20) and Junior (U-17) All White teams in the OFC finals. International activity including qualification to 14 FIFA finals at various age levels by 2010 was spectacular, and in 2013, New Zealand's had its highest-ever ranking on the world stage, with a top-fifty. The All Whites beat Papua New Guinea in the OFC Nations Cup Final to secure their place in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

The Football Ferns, women’s national soccer team, reached the last eight at the London 2012 Olympic Women's Football Tournament, where they were beaten by eventual winners, the US. In 2015, the Football Ferns reached 16 in the world ranking, beat Brazil for the second time and qualified for the Rio Olympics.

Like their seniors, the Junior Ferns and Young Ferns have continued to dominate the women's scene in Oceania, and impress on the world stage, with the older age-group team reaching the quarter-finals of the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Finals. Domestically Auckland City and Wellington Phoenix fly the flag for New Zealand, playing in Australia's A-League competition.