Parade in Wellington salutes All Whites

BY MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 14:10 21/07/2010

All Whites parade in Wellington

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Thousands of football fans crammed into central Wellington to show their support for the All Whites' World Cup effort.

Led out by an Argentinian musician, the parade featured the visiting Boca Juniors football team, the Wellington Phoenix players, and All Whites including star goalkeeper Mark Paston and Wellington player Leo Bertos.

Decked out in a yellow and black-striped suit, football fan Toby Hunter lapped up the atmosphere.

"It's just so good to be a football fan in New Zealand at the moment," he said.

He was pleased to see the Phoenix team out again and hoped the All Whites' success at the World Cup would flow on to the local team's season.

Of the parade he said: "It's quite cool having that South American vibe to start, and then I guess the main event is the All Whites at the back."

Wellington man Evan Belford, who watched the parade from Lambton Quay before following it to Civic Square, said it was great to see the city get behind the All Whites.

"The fact that they even got a parade without even winning the tournament goes to show how much of an impact they had on the nation," he said.

"The parade itself was dull but we weren't there to see dancers or other kinds of entertainment it was purely to cheer on and congratulate the All Whites."

While there was initial fears rain would drench the parade, the bad weather mercifully stayed away allowing fans to flock to the event.

While the crowd was vocal and supportive of the team, it is doubtful the figure reached the predicted 40,000.

Hundreds of the eager fans followed the parade and converged on Civic Square, where a reception to greet the players was held.

All Whites and Phoenix player Ben Sigmund said he was blown away by people lining the streets and leaning out of high-rise buildings to catch a glimpse.

"I didn't know what to expect but I've been blown away. It shows how proud we are to be New Zealanders at the moment."

Confetti rained down as the players made their way to the bottom of the Civic Square steps where they were met by Prime Minister John Key and Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast, among other dignitaries.

Mayor Prendergast welcomed the three teams to "the spiritual home" of football in New Zealand.

Mr Key, patron of the All Whites, spoke of the team's humility, calling them "the most humble bunch of guys you will ever meet".

"This is a team that has a huge amount of courage and guts and determination and were never prepared to give up.

"On behalf of the people of New Zealand, thank you for putting us on the international stage, making us rub our eyes at two in the morning as we watched those TV sets and going 'way to go All Whites, you're the champs'."

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert thanked Wellingtonians for their support and praised the efforts of the All Whites.

"I take my hat off to them, they have been extremely dedicated to the cause."

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