The Ricki Herbert Football Academy’s under-13 team have made the most of their flight home being cancelled, after a week away playing in the Christchurch International Cup.
Taking care of 14 adolescent boys for the weekend isn’t most people’s idea of a good time, but after their flight was grounded, football coach Ricki Herbert decided to make the best of it.
On Thursday, 181 Air New Zealand flights were cancelled due to severe gales in Wellington. Another 40 flights were cancelled on Friday, leaving Air New Zealand battling to clear a 126,000-passenger backlog over the next three days.
After a week playing in the Christchurch International Cup tournament, the Ricki Herbert Football Academy’s under-13 team had been getting ready to fly back to Auckland on Friday.
Their flight was among dozens cancelled, and director Ricki Herbert couldn’t get them all on a new one until Sunday.
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But instead of moping about, the team hit the laser tag arena. On Saturday they spent the day tackling the hydroslides at Hanmer Springs, and played a friendly match against another local team under the lights at the Christchurch United ground.
Herbert said it was a matter of thinking outside the box.
”We just wanted to provide something that’s pretty cool… Keep them motivated and interested, that’s our job.”
Luckily, he had “great staff”, including his son Kale Herbert, onside to help.
The boys, who hailed from Auckland, Taupō, Cambridge and Hamilton, had been a little disappointed when their flight was cancelled, he said.
But he couldn’t overstate how resilient and “cool” they had been.
“They’ve embraced it. I can’t applaud them enough.
“These are young children who’d just spent a week away… [but] they really rallied around.”
Herbert said the parents had been very appreciative, too.
“At the end of the day it’s nobody’s fault.
“We always look at how we can make the best out of it… keep the smiles on, keep them excited about the game.”
A football legend himself, Herbert represented New Zealand at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, and coached the Kiwi team to victory at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“Football’s a big part of my life, I want it to stay a big part of their lives too.”