6 Aug 2008

NZ's biggest football star can't wait for China game

3:23 pm on 6 August 2008

Ryan Nelsen will play his first competitive game for New Zealand in four years on Thursday night, as one of three players over the age of 23 allowed in Olympic football teams.

The Oly-Whites begin a tough Games campaign against China in Shenyang and Nelsen will captain the team, as he does his English Premier League club Blackburn Rovers.

Injury and professional commitments have ruled Nelsen out for his country since the failed World Cup qualifying campaign in 2004. He's set to play two games before returning to England for the 2008-2009 season.

But Nelsen says he's as excited as the New Zealand youngsters about facing the hosts in front of a hostile crowd of 60,000.

And being with players who are 19 or 20 brings back memories of his first big games 10 years ago.

He says time starts to tick really slowly until the players take the field, then it goes too fast, which is a shame as you want to savour the experience.

Nelsen says the pollution isn't an issue for him in China, and the humidity may have more effect.