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Ricki Herbert welcomes World Cup challenge

Ricki Herbert welcomes World Cup challenge

Ricki Herbert may have grasped the gravity of his position as New Zealand's World Cup football coach when he found himself measured, in value if not experience, against Diego Maradona.
Herbert couldn't suppress a sense of disbelief when New Zealand's 1-0 win over Bahrain in its final qualifying match in November propelled it into the World Cup for the second time in its history. Herbert, who played as a defender in New Zealand's 1982 World Cup squad in Spain, now finds himself a member of football's most elevated coaching company.
Realization hit Herbert almost as soon as his team qualified when he learned of speculation over his salary. A newspaper in Spain and another in Argentina sought to quantify how much the coaches of the 32 World Cup finalists would earn for leading their nations onto football's greatest stage.
Argentina's Ole sports daily placed Herbert 14th with a salary of about $1.1 million per year, level with Maradona and Brazil coach Dunga. Madrid sports newspaper Marca placed Herbert two spots higher at 12th with $1.2 million.
The reports caused Herbert to chuckle, if only ruefully, because he earns about NZ$50,000 ($35,000) for his part-time role as New Zealand coach which, he says, leaves him "comfortably 32nd out of 32."
"I saw (the reports) and I said to my wife, (EURO)800,000," Herbert said. "Actually, you know when you get down to the 32nd coach, if you divide that by six you're not too far away."
The salary debate showed that as much as Herbert has been surprised and amused by his sudden prominence, outside observers have struggled to know what to make of the All Whites coach.
Most assume he operates under the same circumstances and with the same resources as coaches of other qualified nations. New Zealand is a developed and moderately wealthy country and it has been assumed Herbert will prepare his team for the World Cup in ideal circumstances.
Football New Zealand has worked hard to give Herbert every resource, setting up warm-up matches against Mexico, Serbia, Slovenia and Australia, finding five-star accommodation near Johannesburg, organizing an altitude training camp in Austria. But Herbert still faces significant problems of scale. New Zealand is a country of only 4 million people and football remains a minor sport, popular among children but less so among adults, in a country almost consumed by rugby.
Herbert juggles his time as national coach with his fulltime role as coach of the Wellington Phoenix, the country's only fulltime professional team. Few of his peers face such a demanding division of roles. Yet he remains fully committed to the national cause, regardless of his or his squad's profile in New Zealand.
"I've never lost faith in this team ever since I took over four years ago. It's a massive responsibility to get us back onto the world stage and a lot of people have done a lot of hard work to make this happen," he said. "From a personal point of view, I don't need to beat my chest and get my name out into the media."
As a coach he is seen as defensively minded _ perhaps the legacy of his playing days when he made 61 appearances for New Zealand. He played for clubs in New Zealand, Australia and England, including 45 appearances for Wolverhampton Wanderers.
He began coaching in 1990, taking charge of the Auckland clubs Papakura, Papatoetoe and Central United before becoming New Zealand under-23 coach in 1999. He became assistant national coach in 2001 and replaced Mick Waitt as New Zealand coach in February 2005.
Under Herbert, New Zealand won its first ever match in Europe in 2006, beating Georgia 3-1, and also qualified for the 2009 Confederations Cup.


Updated : 2020-11-30 23:01 GMT+08:00