Steve Sumner, who captained the New Zealand football team that played at the 1982 World Cup after the longest qualifying campaign in the tournament's history, died on Wednesday. He was 61.
New Zealand Football said Sumner had died from prostate cancer, which was first diagnosed in 2015.
English-born Sumner led New Zealand through a 15-match qualifying campaign which included matches against Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, China, China Taipei, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Profoundly sad to hear of the passing of Steve Sumner. The footballing landscape has been indelibly changed. Our thoughts with his family. pic.twitter.com/up9r4ULMFN
— Wellington Phoenix (@WgtnPhoenixFC) February 7, 2017
In order to reach the final playoff, New Zealand had to beat Saudi Arabia by five goals in Riyadh and did so, leading 5-0 at halftime and holding on in a scoreless second half. They then beat China 2-1 in Singapore to reach their first World Cup finals, after playing more matches than any other nation to reach a World Cup at that time.
Sumner played 105 times for New Zealand over 12 years, scoring 27 goals as an attacking midfielder.