The Chatham Cup knockout football competition is one of New Zealand's longest running national sports events, having been contested annually since 1923. Tradition dictates that when your club is knocked out, you follow the fortunes of your victors - and in turn their conquerors - all the way to the final.

Join us on our own Cup odyssey this year, as we report on cup fortunes in a similar vein, picking up the trail with Internationale FC - an Auckland Sunday league team with players from every continent on the globe - and following their path (or whoever beats them) through to the final on September.

Internationale FC certainly lives up to their name - and adds to the unique flavour of the Chatham Cup.

`Inter', who will face Royal Navy FC on Sunday in the first round of the national knockout competition, boast players from 11 countries around the world, including Uzbekistan, Thailand, Brazil, Kenya and South Africa. There are also representatives from North America and Europe, as well as a group of Kiwis, which means `Inter' covers every football playing region on the planet.

"It's always been a diverse team," said coach and co-founder Matthew Hunt. "I'd estimate we have had more than 40 different nationalities over the years. It makes for an interesting mix of footballing styles, but there is a common passion for the game."


Inter was established in 1999, after Hunt, who is from Ipswich but has lived (and played football) in Portugal, Spain and Japan, struck up a friendship with Cesar Andion, who was a recent arrival in New Zealand from Madrid.

The team played Saturday football for a few seasons before switching to the Auckland Sunday League. They have been established in the Premier Division for more than a decade, finally winning the title in 2014, after several near misses.

But the Chatham Cup has always held a special magic for Inter, after a memorable run at their first attempt in 2004. They beat Te Atatu, Mad Hatters (Whangarei) and Claudelands Rovers before facing East Coast Bays in the round of 32.

The North Shore club had former All Whites Jacob Spoonley and Daniel Ellensohn in their ranks, as well as Solomon Islands international George Suri, and were coached by Willy Gerdsen. But Inter held their more fancied rivals to 1-1 at halftime, before the class of the Northern Premier League side led to a 3-1 victory.

"That was a massive achievement but we haven't been able to replicate it since," said Hunt, who is one of three survivors from the squad of 2004. "We haven't managed to put together such a strong team again but there is always hope it might happen again."

"The Cup definitely adds to the excitement factor for the players. Even for those they are relatively fresh to New Zealand there is something about a national cup competition that brings a bit of magic."

In other first round matches Ellerslie host Takapuna, Hibiscus Coast play Papatoetoe FC and Waitakere City make the journey down to Tauranga to face Otumoetai FC

The clash between Wellington Olympic and Miramar Rangers AFC stands out in the Capital Federation while two-time champions Cashmere Technical will begin their 2016 Cup quest away to Burwood AFC.