All Whites legend Steve Sumner is feeling humbled after being paid the ultimate tribute of having a stand at one of the country’s iconic football grounds named after him.
The grandstand at English Park in Christchurch will now be known as ‘The Steve Sumner Stand’ in honour of the former national team captain, who is regarded among the finest players to have worn the silver fern and is now using his trademark fighting qualities in a battle against prostate cancer.
The stand’s new moniker was unveiled by the Mainland Football Federation on Saturday in a touching event which brought together Steve’s family, former team mates and other followers of the game, as well as representatives from the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
“The day was amazing, though the weather let us know football is a winter sport,” Steve says of the memorable experience.
“It was humbling and a privilege rolled into one to be the centre of attention and my family all told me how proud they were.”
There was a full house of friends and family on hand to celebrate the occasion with Steve having the support of wife Jude, children Paul, Carl, Tori and Deano, and grandchildren Beckett and Stella. Deano and partner Nadja travelled over from Australia, as did Paul and his wife Tarryn while Carl’s long-term partner Hannah was also in attendance.
They were joined by Steve’s sister Diane and brother Dean, as well as mother Norma – still going strong at 86-years-old.
The stand renaming was the main event of the ‘Play It For Steve’ weekend, a New Zealand Football campaign to both recognise the career of one of the country’s favourite footballing sons and raise awareness of prostate cancer.
The national body was joined by Mainland Football, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and a pair of independent supporters groups – Friends of Football and the Centre Circle – in making the weekend possible and the aim was to encourage footballers all over the country to support the fight against prostate cancer by dedicating their match to Steve.
It had the honour of kicking off Blue September, the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s own annual awareness and fundraising month.
“All in all, it was a grand day where football was the winner, so too Blue September,” Steve says. “I was so pleased with the attention Blue September gained, coupled with the profile our sport received too.”
Mainland Football CEO Julian Bowden was pleased to be able to recognise Steve’s achievements in such a fitting way.
“The function room was packed, indicating the regard in which Steve is held within our footballing community,” he says.
“Understandably, the day was at times emotional but there were also moments of laughter as former team mate and great friend, Bobby Almond, regaled tales of their exploits.”
The man himself spoke on the importance of men visiting the doctor for regular prostate check-ups and his sense of honour in having the English Park stand named after him, which he is set to take pride of place in shortly.
“We look forward to seeing Steve sitting in his stand over the coming months, including this weekend’s English Cup Final, where he will present the trophy to the winning captain,” Bowden says.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in New Zealand men with one in 10 Kiwi males developing the disease in their lifetime. Around 3000 men are diagnosed every year and about 600 die from it – the same number as women who die from breast cancer.
Early detection saves lives and a PSA blood test is all it takes to start the checking process. Men between 50 and 70 should consider an annual prostate check that includes both a PSA blood test and a digital rectal examination. Men over the age of 40 are strongly recommended to have regular prostate checks if there is a family history of prostate cancer.
You can show your support for Blue September by making a donation and wearing a blue ribbon, to donate please visit prostate.org.nz