Football fanatics shine in FIFA U

After an extreme stunt on Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower- which saw two of New Zealand’s prospective U-20 football stars take to the skies…

The Taranaki coastline

The Taranaki coastline

After an extreme stunt on Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower- which saw two of New Zealand’s prospective U-20 football stars take to the skies above the City of Sails to showcase their football skills – it seems New Zealand is suffering a case of keepy-uppy madness ahead of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015.

Football fanatics

And there is one New Zealand football fanatic in particular who could give the U-20 boys a run for their money in the keepy-uppy stakes. Patrick Hay, a 17-year-old football fan, recently wowed crowds with his impressive ball skills at an event in New Plymouth, one of New Zealand’s seven host cities for the FIFA tournament which kicks off in Auckland on May 30, 2015.

The keepy-uppy contest took place during the Womad Festival, a vibrant festival of world music, art and culture that takes place in New Plymouth annually. Although most competitors reached the 100 mark, it was Hay who really stood out from the pack. The 17-year-old Taranaki local juggled the ball non-stop with his feet, legs and head an impressive 5,160 times without the ball touching the ground once. Hailed by locals as ‘one to watch’ Patrick now lives in Auckland after he was awarded a scholarship to a prestigious school for his footballing talent. The win was made all the more impressive for Hay as during his first attempt he stopped when he got to 300. He then had another go making it to 500 then, he says, he just kept on kicking. “When I reached a thousand, a crowd appeared … and when I hit the 5000 mark, the crowd went crazy,” Hay told local reporters. “I was exhausted after it and I couldn’t have done it without mates.”

Footballing royalty

But Hay wasn’t the only football fan to shine during the competition; a relative of New Zealand’s footballing royalty also had a part to play in the festivities. At the age of 12, Oscar Van Hattum managed 480 kicks. Unsurprisingly Hattum has dreams to become a world-class football player, like the stars coming to New Zealand shores for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, and with a family whose legacy is steeped in the beautiful game he is in great company to make those dreams come true.

If the name sounds familiar, it is because Hattum is the grandson of New Plymouth’s footballing visionary Fits Van Hattum, a Dutchman credited with helping to develop football in New Plymouth when he moved to the North Island city in the 1950s. Since his arrival in New Zealand, Van Hattum – known as the ‘Father of Football’ – helped promote football to a rugby loving nation in schools and supported national youth coaching clinics where the likes of Oceania Footballer of the Century Wynton Rufer and former All Whites and Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert were discovered.

Football literally runs in the blood for Van Hattum, a father of four children, three of whom have all represented New Zealand in football on the world stage. Perhaps the most famous of these sons is Frank Van Hattum, a key member of the All Whites team that took New Zealand to their first ever FIFA World Cup tournament in Spain, 1982. The former goalkeeper is currently a member of the FIFA Associations Committee and is still lauded for his heroics for New Zealand during the FIFA World Cup over 30 years ago.

Rich in history

With so much rich footballing history and talent just waiting to be inspired and discovered, it is little wonder New Plymouth was chosen as a host city for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. This coastal North Island city where the impressive snow-capped Mt Taranaki overlooks the thundering Tasman Sea is the perfect place to enjoy football in magical surroundings.

It is Group E who will be playing their opening matches at New Plymouth’s Stadium Taranaki – hailed as the third best place in the world to catch a live sporting match- with footballing powerhouses Nigeria, Korea DPR, Hungary and five times FIFA U-20 World Cup Champions Brazil all set to bring their own football flair, passionate supporters and future stars of the world game to New Plymouth’s shores.

The city is also setting up a ‘Fever Pitch’ fan zone, a central hub for all game information. Open from May 28 until June 11 the fan zone will play host to a selection of special competitions and live entertainment on match days.

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