Premier League star backs Falcons
A famous English footballer is lending his support to Nelson's youth football team, adding further excitment to the teams flying start to the season.
The NZ King Salmon Nelson Marlborough Falcons have begun their season on fire, winning all of their first four games.
Their victorious streak saw the team go into today's Waitangi Day home game against Canterbury United as leaders of the southern conference in the first round of the ASB national youth football league. The Falcons are five points clear of Canterbury and today's game is the last game in the league's first round.
The Falcons are also buzzing that Chelsea mid-fielder Frank Lampard has leant his support to their fundraising efforts, donating one of his signed Chelsea shirts.
Lampard has captained the England side and is considered one of the best English midfielders of all-time. The Falcons, its management and supporters are "blown away" he would want to support a young team in the Nelson region.
The shirt has generated interest with an avid Chelsea fan already offering $300 for it.
Nelson Falcons organising committee member Emma Thompson says the Falcons are the first team from the top of the south in the modern ASB Youth League.
The Falcons made a successful bid to become part of the league last year.
A group of Nelsonians involved in football believed a youth team was missing in the region and successfully pitched to New Zealand football that a team from the top of the south should be part of a restructure of the game.
The team and its management last year showed they deserved to be in the league and were given a three-year licence. The Falcons finished fourth out of five teams in the league's southern conference last year, but Emma says it "felt like we won".
Emma says the Falcons are extremely grateful for the support the team has received from the community. The team need to raise $70,000 in sponsorship a year and could not have done it without the corporate support and sponsorship it has received.
As part of its on-going fundraising, and as part of its ethos of encouraging youngsters into football, the club has become the exclusive Nelson distributors of Lampard's storybooks "Frankie's Football Adventures".
Books are for sale at the team's home games or at sportinart.com.
While dealing with Lampard's publicists Emma asked if Lampard wanted to donate a signed shirt.
She did not hear anything back for a long time and then "all of a sudden I got an email that it would be with you next week".
Emma says having a youth league based in Nelson has been fantastic for the both the development of the sport in the region and for keeping talented young players in the area.
"We lost a lot of really talented young players who wanted to further their education, but also wanted to continue a pathway with their football and they had to leave. They had to go to Canterbury or Wellington."
She says the aim of the squad is to help develop "football in the whole region".
Having a youth team has provided youngsters with something to aspire to.
"Hopefully we will have more kids playing football in the region whose goal it is to become a Falcon. That's the idea."
Emma says even after a year that is happening.
"In winter you could hear the young kids saying I want to be a Falcon."
On Sunday the Falcons will follow up today's home game by playing Southern United at Trafalgar Park at 2pm.
For more information on the team visit nelsonfalcons.co.nz or like them on Facebook.