Wellington Phoenix to take football home

  • Wellington to play two home games in New Zealand after 200 days on the road

  • Fixtures v Western United (May 22 in Wellington) and Perth Glory (May 30 in Auckland) will be last two home games of regular season for Phoenix

FOR more than 200 days they have been away from home, playing in another country to keep their A-League aspirations alive.

But now Wellington Phoenix will get the chance to finish their regular season in front of their own fans after confirming they will play their last two “home” games before the finals back in New Zealand.

In what shapes as a double coming-home party, Phoenix will play Western United at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Saturday 22 May, before hosting Perth Glory at Eden Park in Auckland eight days later on Sunday 30 May.

Ufuk Talay’s side currently sits in eighth spot, just two points outside the top six.

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Playing a game each in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, and its most populated city, Auckland, is designed to allow Phoenix fans across the country to show their support for the team in the hunt for a place in the finals, and acknowledge the sacrifices made by the players, coaches and administration staff to allow the A-League season to go ahead.

The club set up a “home away from home” in Wollongong with the players based there since assembling on November 1 for pre-season, and have played 10 home games at WIN Stadium in Wollongong, plus one at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle.

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It has meant being away from families and friends since, including over Christmas, and A-League Commissioner Greg O’Rourke said the competition owed all those involved a debt of thanks.

“Being away for so long hasn’t been easy for the players and staff by any stretch of the imagination, and its credit to them that Wellington are firmly in the mix to finish in the top six,” O’Rourke said.

“Because of the travel restrictions imposed by the government in light of the coronavirus pandemic, having Wellington based on Australian soil was the only way we could play this season.

“The fact they have done so without complaints, and just as importantly have played some great football along the way, is testament to Ufuk Talay and his players.

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“I’m sure football fans in New Zealand will take this opportunity to celebrate what they have achieved so far, and give Phoenix a fantastic atmosphere in their last two home games of the home season.”

Both games are subject to any further border restrictions affecting the Trans-Tasman “travel bubble”.