Wellington Phoenix - a tale of love, legacy

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 24/09/2011

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It was while having his haircut that Terry Serepisos had his lightbulb moment to bankroll the Wellington Phoenix.

But he was also playing out a story of love and legacy for his late brother Kosta.

It was 2007 when Mr Serepisos was sitting in the barber's chair listening to a radio jock bemoaning the inevitable extinction of New Zealand football because no-one would put up the $1.2 million needed to take over New Zealand's A-League franchise.

Wellingtonians John Dow and Ian Wells had taken it on themselves to find a cash-rich backer to take over the failed Auckland Knights licence. It was proving to be virtually impossible.

They were approached by John Serepisos, Terry's cousin, who said he knew someone willing to help. The next day Terry Serepisos produced a cheque for $1.25m and the club was born.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Serepisos said his brother Kosta, who died from leukaemia, loomed large in his decision to fund the club.

"I was quite a wealthy individual and I thought to myself what can I give back. I couldn't save my brother from leukaemia with all the money in the world I had.

"So I threw it into the Phoenix and created what has now become something of an iconic thing in New Zealand football and history."

The name Phoenix was selected from about 200 names suggested through The Dominion Post, Mr Serepisos said.

The team's first A-League game at Westpac Stadium against Melbourne Victory – a 2-2 draw in front of more than 14,000 fans – saw Mr Serepisos walk hand-in-hand with his dead brother's daughter to place the ball on the centre spot.

"As I said, it started with my brother. That was his daughter that put the ball down for the first game ... That was a touching moment."

But how will he feel attending games in his corporate box now that he does not own the club?

"It doesn't matter how I feel. I know I started it ... I know I gave everybody in this room joy. That can never be taken away."

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- The Dominion Post

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