Post-2020 review interview article with club president Slava Meyn

As 2020 reaches its end, club president Slava Meyn gives us his review of one of the most unique years in Christchurch United and New Zealand football’s history. 

Meyn’s comprehensive review gives us his insight into how the club has performed over the last year from the youngest age groups right up to the first team. He also discusses the club’s ambitious goals for the future as New Zealand Football looks to make a number of changes to the national league format. 

Of course, navigating a pandemic is discussed too. 
Meyn’s opinion of the junior club’s year was a largely positive one, with a significant amount of player development and improvement featured across all age groups. Our Under 17 team competed at that age group despite being mostly under 16-year-olds and finished in third place, with several call ups from the squad to the first team. Particularly pleasing for Meyn was the Under 14 squad, coached by Joe Cole, who were unbeatable all season and were undoubtedly the strongest team in the South Island. 

“It is great to get the results, but the most important thing overall is player development. That is our ultimate goal,” Meyn said. 

The Under 15 squad also featured a number of good players but struggled at times with balance, but despite that, several players went on to play for representative teams, something that Meyn said he was incredibly proud of. 

Our first team returned to the top flight of Canterbury football for the first time in many years in 2020. The initial goal was to make the top 3, but injuries and some other issues made it a difficult season for our guys. The team will need to finish in the top 2 of their league next season in order to qualify for the new club-based format. 

“That is our goal, and we will be making big steps this year to make it happen,” Meyn said. 

The first team have already made some exciting new signings for next year and will also move to train three times a week. There will be a much higher level of commitment expected from both the players and coaches to achieve the ambitious goals that have been set.

Meyn also wished to thank our club’s fantastic academy coaches, who have facilitated amazing progress in all of your young players this year. Special thanks to Michiel Buursma , Joe Cole and Jude Fitzpatrick for all of their hard work and dedication. 

“We are very pleased with our academy development heading into 2021 and the parents have given us great comments about our coaches,” Meyn said.

Two new coaches coming on board next year will also mean each age group has their own specific manager, meaning trainings can be specifically tailored to each age group. 

“A testament to our academy is the eight players Christchurch United has in national camps, and we believe there should be more there too,” Meyn said. 

“Thanks so much to the parents too who have been supportive all year and paid fees on time, which we really appreciate.” 

In 2019, everyone involved with Christchurch United had the following year in the backs of our minds, as 2020 would be the club’s 50th anniversary. Our initial event planned for April had to be postponed due to Covid-19, but this did not detract from a fantastic night in October where a commemorative book of the club’s history was presented.

“A lot of our former players arrived and were pleased to hear we were holding the tradition and history of the club,” Meyn said.

“It was a great step for the club. The book was very well received and was an amazing final product overall. Special thanks to Coen Lammers, Jake Kenny and everyone else associated for their efforts.”

Looking into the future, the recent national league format change from New Zealand Football is very positive news for the club, and Meyn said this would allow Christchurch United to compete at the highest level as soon as possible. The new format follows a similar one to many in Europe with a focus on youth development and Meyn said this would bring many more ideas, people and money to local and national football. 

Our club president also wished to acknowledge the efforts of our staff during the alert level four lockdown earlier in 2020 when the club still remained highly active. Our online workshops and sessions with coaches from around the world kept our boys very busy and ensured we were one of the most productive clubs in New Zealand and Australia during this time.

“I’m really proud of everyone and their transition, our boys were busy. Of course we did not have proper preparation for the season and we just started to play, but it was the same as everyone and overall we can’t complain as we are playing and are very lucky in New Zealand,” Meyn said.

The coming months and years for Christchurch United will continue with a focus on building a long term, sustainable club. The academy’s strength will be integral to this, as will team recruitment of both players and coaches. Meyn says our aim is to have the strongest academy in the South Island and we are well on our way to achieving that. Of course, we hope we can help our players make national teams, world cup squads, and first teams. We also look forward to introducing a womans and girls football system in the future as the club also branches out into cricket and gymnastics, making it a multi-sport club.  

“Lastly, I’d like to say a huge thanks to all of our staff, coaches, parents and players for the season we had together - it was not easy at times but was also very successful overall. I am most happy with the development we’ve shown and the attitude everyone involved with the club has. I wish you all a fantastic holiday season and see you all in 2021,” Meyn said.