Hamish Clark: Steve Sumner was my first sporting hero

OPINION: Steve Sumner was tall, skinny, the fastest on the field, and my first real sporting hero. 

I was small, skinny, running as fast as my nine-year-old legs would go, fetching the ball for Sumner on the soccer sidelines. 

Sumner played for Christchurch United - their strip was white - the same as the All Whites.

I played for Western Football Club - my strip was red and white - the same as my favourite team Manchester United.

It was the mid-1970s and Steve Sumner was the biggest football star in the country. I would do anything I could to see my hero in action, close up.

Hamish Clark
Hamish Clark (front row, second from right) with his soccer team (Supplied)

It was a sunny July winter's afternoon when the day arrived - I was to be a ballboy at English Park where Steve Sumner was playing for United.

I ran my little heart out all day, fetching balls kicked over the sidelines and throwing them back to the famous man with the black moustache. I was so close to Sumner I could almost touch him.

He was fast, he was fantastic; a superstar in my childhood eyes. Sumner went on to play 105 games for the All Whites and was captain at the 1982 World Cup.

He was my legend. 

I caught up with Steve Sumner last year - his legs were tired, but there was still a sparkle in his eye. I shared my childhood memories of him and we laughed out loud together. 

Today at English Park there is the 'Steve Sumner Stand'. It's a ground he fondly loved and a memory I will always cherish: when I saw my first real sporting hero in action.

Hamish Clark is Newshub's Christchurch bureau chief.

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