Former Bridlington Town defender Frank Belt says winning the biggest club competition in New Zealand was ‘one of his greatest achievements in the game so far’.
Belt was part of the Eastern Suburbs team which beat Napier Rovers 2-1 after extra-time in the ASB Chatham Cup on Sunday, to complete a league and cup double.
He is loving life on the other side of the world, and is working for the Northern Football Federation as well as playing a starring role on the pitch.
Belt said: “Napier had won the Central League and we had won the Northern League, so it was good to have both teams in the final.
“It was a really hard-fought game throughout and could have gone either way in all honesty.”
Another Englishman, Brandon Barnes, scored Suburbs’ first goal and Damian Mosquera got the winner.
“My auntie and three cousins were in the crowd on Sunday so it made it even more special that I had them there to watch and support me. It is something which will last long in the memory,” said the former Hull City trainee, who usually plays at right-back, but operated down the left flank on Sunday.
The cup final was shown live on TV and the attendance was several thousands.
Belt, who also played for Scarborough Athletic and Pickering Town, said: “Napier brought a lot more fans than Suburbs had and Napier is a flight away from where the game was actually played.
“The facilities are much higher too compared to back home. New Zealand recently held the under-20 World Cup so the standard of pitches were improved massively, which meant certain clubs got their facilities modified.
“The standard is high, there are a lot of English lads over here among other nationalities. We train four nights a week, have a lot more backroom staff compared to an NCEL outfit - a manager, two coaches, fitness coach, and physios.”
Belt left the UK last year and had a spell coaching in America before heading to New Zealand.
He said: “I came to New Zealand from Boston, where I was coaching full-time for Global Premier Soccer, who are affiliated to Bayern Munich.
“I was really missing playing and had an option to go to New Zealand through the manager of Suburbs, Malcolm McPherson, who I’d been in contact previous to my departure to the States.
“Working for the NFF means I get to coach all the best talent at the ages of 13 to 15 in and around the Auckland sector, and I can try to develop and push them on towards the national team.
“I have been approached by a few clubs for the Summer League but will have to think about if I am to return home or stay out here for the summer.”