Buffalo has become a magnet for Kiwi soccer players, and the relationship is about to become even more robust.
Waikato, a university team from New Zealand, will play four matches against local college soccer programs this week. The visiting club's head coach, Che Bunce, is a former teammate of University at Buffalo men's head coach Stu Riddle and WNY Flash vice president Aaran Lines.
In addition to being called with the NZ national team, the 40-year-old Bunce also played professionally in England for Sheffield United and Coventry City.
Here's the official schedule:
Noon April 6: at Niagara University
6 p.m. April 8: at the University at Buffalo (will also be streamed on UBBulls.com)
1 p.m. April 10: at Buffalo State College (60-minute match)
2:30 p.m. April 10: vs. Canisius College (60-minute match, also at Buffalo State's Coyer Field)
New Zealand has produced several coaches and players who've been integral to the Buffalo and Western New York soccer scene.
Lines coached the WNY Flash for seven years; Riddle, born in the United Kingdom but a New Zealand citizen, coaches the UB men; and a number of players -- Fox Slotemaker, Nick Forrester, Scott Doney, Cameron Hogg and Regan Steele -- all hail from the two-island country in the southwest Pacific.
The quartet of matches will also allow local soccer fans to check up on the progress of Buffalo's college programs, who approach the midpoint of their spring slates.
What does Niagara look like under new head coach Bill Boyle? Can Riddle's Bulls shake off a sluggish draw against Lake Erie College and a loss to Gannon? Does Mark Howlett's Bengals side look poised for another SUNYAC Tournament trip? What's happening at Canisius?
The University of Waikato's trip to Buffalo is a terrific cultural experience for the visitors -- some of whom may have ambitions to play stateside -- but also for the local squads, who will know nothing about their opponent and will have to make adjustments in-game.
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who does not have a New Zealand accent, at firstname.lastname@example.org