WELLINGTON Phoenix playmaker Daniel admits he’s no fan of the cold, so he’s got mixed feelings on the Phoenix’s pre-season clash with the Melbourne Victory in Queenstown on Saturday.
On the one hand, the match – to kickoff Queenstown’s famous 10-day Winter Festival – will be the Phoenix’s first significant hit-out ahead of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 campaign. On the other, the game-day temperature in the South Island tourist mecca is likely to be in low, single-digit territory.
“It can get quite cold in Wellington but Queenstown will be very cold,” said Brazilian midfielder Daniel. “I took my family on holiday there and it’s a beautiful place. I am looking forward to going there again, as are my teammates.”
While the South American-cum new New Zealand resident is more accustomed to warmer climes, he does have some experience of playing in chilly conditions. Still, the prospect of kicking about in the snow leaves Daniel, well, a little cold.
“Footballers don’t like the snow. I played in the snow one time, in Hungary in 2002. It can be difficult – I don’t like it. But we have to play, so let’s go. We will be trying to play good football and it will be good to play a tough team like Victory. But I think I will be packing all the clothes I own for the trip.”
It is the calibre of the opposition for Saturday’s match that has Daniel most excited. The Victory are the reigning Hyundai A-League champions and will give the Phoenix an excellent gauge of how their preparations are going for the 2009/10 campaign.
“It’s a different level. We started pre-season playing against some local teams here in Wellington, but now things get much harder and that will be good.”
Daniel is also anxious to welcome back his teammates who have been on duty with the New Zealand national team at the Confederations Cup tournament in South Africa.
“It has been hard not training regularly with them [the Phoenix’s seven All Whites, as well as coach Ricki Herbert] but they have played top games in South Africa and their focus now will only be on the Phoenix. We are a tight group, we are together. Australians, Brazilians, English, Kiwis – we are the Wellington Phoenix. It will be good to have everyone back for the game in Queenstown.
“There are a lot of Brazilians there and we want many, many people to come to the game. I think it is good for the club to play in other cities, not always Wellington. It’s good for all New Zealand to support us.”
The Phoenix will trial FC Dordrecht striker Eddy Putter in the Queenstown match. The 27-year-old Dutchman arrived in Wellington on Monday and has been busy getting up to speed. Also newly arrived in the city for the coming campaign is English marksman Chris Greenacre, who may get some playing time in Queenstown.
Saturday’s big clash kicks off at 2.30pm on Saturday at the Queenstown Events Centre. Tickets for the match are on sale now through TicketDirect at the Queenstown Events Centre, i-Site or by phoning 0064 (0)3 450 9005.
The Phoenix, who depart Wellington for Queenstown on Friday morning, will also take part in a training and coaching clinic for local schoolchildren on Friday afternoon, as well as a range of other Winter Festival events throughout the weekend.
Other Phoenix pre-season activity includes a trip to Christchurch for an exhibition game on July 5 and a match against the Central Coast Mariners in Dubbo on July 25. A three-match trip to China in mid-July is close to confirmation, meaning the Phoenix will have a solid pre-season build-up under their belts prior to their opening Hyundai A-League game of the season on August 9.