Preparing for their first game after seven years of training, special needs team Sunshine Football were joined by a celebrity coach in the form of Wellington Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund to give them some expert tips ahead of their debut match.

The smiles, the cheers and the excitement of those on the pitch were hard to contain when Ben Sigmund came onto the pitch. For seven years they had trained but there had been no game to put all that work into practice. After a public campaign across New Zealand to find them someone to play had proved successful Sunshine Football were now going to get put through their paces by the Phoenix star.

“Welcome to Sunshine,” one player would shout excitedly. After putting the players through some drills, joining in a small sided game and exchanging some banter it was obvious how much Sigmund was enjoying the opportunity

“It was probably one of the most emotional days of my football career,” the former All White said afterwards. “I am an ambassador for the U20 World Cup and that is how the opportunity came up to go an visit the team. They had originally done a story on the team on the TV over here and my visit was a follow up to that.”

With the team made up of people with Down Syndrome and developmental delays Sigmund said what stood out was all the players passion for the game.

“The thing for me was that these guys did not care who won or lost, they just loved playing and scoring goals. A prime example was that one player had a goal scored against his team and he ran around celebrating with the team that had scored against them and it made me appreciate life because we get caught up in a lot of things they don’t matter.”

Like all A-League players this was one of many game development and promotion visits he makes throughout the season, however this was something truly special.

“After that whole training session I walked away and I got quite emotional about everything. It was a huge day for me, and the most exciting thing for me in my eight years of being a pro.

“As a player I have always thought it was my responsibility to get as many people as possible involved in football and to introduce them to the world game and I felt like this was my chance to do this.

“As a player you are a role model and people look up to you and we have to make sure that the next generation understands the importance of that and it is something that I’m really passionate about at the Phoenix.

Sunshine Football’s debut match would finish in a draw but as Sigmund said the result was not what they were chasing it was all about their passion for the game, something that the Phoenix defender was thrilled to be able to play his part in indulging and in all likelihood turning those players into life long Phoenix and A-League fans in the process.

To watch Ben Sigmund’s coaching session with Sunshine Football go to