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All Whites great Sumner dies aged 61

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/02/2017

Inspirational former All Whites captain Steve Sumner has been described as a giant of the sport in New Zealand.

Sumner died at the age of 61, surrounded by family in Christchurch on Wednesday morning, 17 months after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

An attacking midfielder whose career spanned 13 years, English-born Sumner is best recognised as captain of the famed New Zealand side who made history by competing at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain.

Sporting a bushy moustache, he was the face of a memorable 15-game qualifying run which captured the country's attention.

Under coach John Adshead, he went on to lead the All Whites in their maiden finals appearance, scoring their first-ever tournament goal in the 5-2 loss to Scotland.

NZ Football chief executive Andy Martin says Sumner is among the most influential footballers the country had produced.

"Steve was not only a great footballer, he was also a great man and he will be sorely missed," Martin said.

"What he and the All Whites team from 1982 achieved in that FIFA World Cup campaign put New Zealand on the world football map and his legacy will last forever."

After serving an apprenticeship with Blackpool, Sumner made an immediate impact when he came to New Zealand in 1976, immediately winning the national league title with Christchurch United.

He went on to claim five league titles and a record six Chatham Cup winner's medals.

Sumner played 58 internationals and scored 22 times, placing him third on the all-time goal-scoring list. His 105 total matches is a New Zealand record.

Six goals in the 13-0 rout of Fiji in 1981 remains an All Whites record.

He is among just 31 players, and the only New Zealander, to have received the FIFA Order of Merit, the highest player honour awarded by the international governing body.

Sumner played a role in the opening of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, alongside late Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

Following his retirement in 1988, Sumner held various roles and was a regular commentator on the game.

Over the last year he became a prominent voice in advocating for men's health issues.

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