Newly Appointed Operations Manager- Gisborne

“I’m looking to create a football community within the community, and ignite a passion for the game for those who may not already be exposed.”

Central Football welcomes Neil Aitkenhead as the newly appointed Operations Manager in Gisborne. Originally from Ireland, Neil has called New Zealand home for nearly twenty years. He has based himself in Gisborne for the last ten years, where he resides with his wife Amber and their three children Ruby (11), Finn (6) and Declan (5).

Neil has always had a passion for sports, particularly football. He started playing the game back in Ireland where he participated in GAA (Gaelic football and hurling). Upon arriving in New Zealand, Neil joined a social football league under Brooklyn Northern United in Wellington; it was here that he was able to enhance his skills, allowing him to network while enjoying the game. It didn’t take long before Neil was coordinating indoor football and futsal teams on the side of his full time job.

Neil said goodbye to the windy Capital and moved to Gisborne in 2007. Here, he played for Gisborne Thistle for five years. In 2015, Neil had the privilege to be involved in the re birth of Riverina AFC, and ultimately became in charge of coordinating admissions. Neil points out that the formation of Riverina was a special experience, stating:

“Riverina was basically a group of friends that had not played for a few years and were all keen to play a game and connect socially. This year Riverina will welcome a women’s team, which is fantastic!”

Neil has also been involved in junior football since 2010 and continues to promote and support by coaching his children’s school teams. When he is not on the field, you can find Neil in the classroom. Neil completed his degree education in 2011, and is registered as an early childhood teacher. In both education and football, Neil has come to appreciate the benefits that both contribute to societal growth and ultimately, a health community.

Through his career in education, Neil has become quite fond of the Maori proverb: He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. This proverb translates to: What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people. Neil says that his vision for his role is simple:

“ I would like to work with the local community to grow the game in our region by practically considering how to best retain players through lines of communication, encouraging self motivation and engagement.”

Additionally, Neil points out that his hope is to encourage players and supporters input and involvement. Communication networks where people feel like they can express their views will be fundamental in achieving this goal. On a larger scale, Neil aims to develop and expand on the sport by introducing other forms of the game like futsal and beach football. Central Football welcomes Neil and is excited about his position and the future!