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Stay tuned for updates......Football has had to take a back seat and that is tragic

Monday, November 30, 2009

How To Get Your Kicks In Wellington Pt. 2

A Tragic's Guide to Park Kickabouts: Part Two- Southern and Eastern Suburbs

Here is the next instalment of the guide to the best places to find a kickabout in Wellington.

Wellington's South and Eastern suburbs are traditionally where you'll find the refugees and migrants to whom park kickarounds are an essential part of the social fabric. From strata upon strata of Italian emgires in Island Bay, to the more recent influx of Assyrian and Afghani youth in Newtown and Miramar, the South and East is the place to go for the football tragic in search of a game or two.

There are a number of places to find a kickaround in the South and East. Here are a few of the best:

Newtown Park is not quite kickaround central like it used to be, for a number of reasons, but it is still one of the best places to watch football in Wellington.

Home of Wellington Olympic and Wellington United, it is also the training ground for Team Wellington and Wellington Phoenix. For years the rutted upper field (Newtown #2) has served as a kickaround spot for the large number of migrants and refugees who live in the adjacent flats. But since the upper field has been immaculately restored to accomodate the needs of professional footballers the allowance for informal kickarounds has decreased. Still on sunny summer nights plenty of people still sneak on for a barefooted kick or two, and during Team Wellington games kids replicate the goal fests below by playing on the upper field. With the Zoo next door a chorus of chimpanzee hollers is a nice standby for the roar from the terrace whenever a ball bobbles into the goal over a jersey.

The groundsman lives nearby and will often come by to see whats up. He is a nice guy and is not as grumpy as he first seems. He is just protecting the Council's investment, and will usually just point you in the direction of the other parks in the area that are open.


Likelihood of games- 4/10
Location- 9/10 (Number 10 and 23 buses go right by, or its a short walk South from Newtown, and within walking distance of 3-4 other parks)
Other diversions 10/10
Likely participants: Local Somali social teams, dads and kids, Wgtn Phoenix training squad
Other sports to contend with: Athletics (try and get out of the way when the javelins and shot-puts start flying, theres a little bit of history between the park users there!)

Tragic rating= 7.66

Martin Luckie Park

A short jaunt up the hill South of Newtown Park is Martin Luckie Park. This is becoming more and more a place to find a casual game of footie. It is the location for the Council's excellent five a side ethnic footie event Culture Kicks every March, and is the home ground of the Oromo community, an ethnic nroup from Ethiopia who have finished in the quarter finals of Culture Kicks since its inception. The Oromo are usually happy for you to join in, but closer to tournament time they tend to be a little more jumpy about strangers joining in.

One of the best things about MLP is that you can see Wakefield Park and MacAllister Park from nearby vantage points; recently I went to MLP looking for a game there, but to no avail. I went up to the Hockey Stadium nearby and saw some figures flitting about in the distance at MacAllister park, got on my bike and was in luck as the distant figures turned out to be a group of Somali Taxi drivers about to start a game.


Likelihood of games- 6/10
Other diversions-5/10
Likely participants- social teams training for Culture Kicks
Other sports to contend with: Rugby League(Winter), Softball (Summer-watch out for broken glass around softball diamonds-these guys like to drink), Ultimate Frisbee (The Wgtn Ultimate Frisbee club play their league here on Summer week nights)
Tragic Rating= 5.66

MacAllister Park

A great place to find a kickabout since the main road (Adelaide) runs right past it, and a drive -by is all thats needed to ascertain the likelihood of a game.

Opposite the site of the former Athletic Park Rugby Stadium there is a certain poetic justice that MacAllister, for so long a rugby park, has recently been made a football ground in the winter. As windy as hell when its blowing, it has plenty of stuff for the whole family while papa (or mama) plays. Diversions such as bush walks, mountain bike runs, kite flying or running, really really fast down the gigantic hill at the northern end, (or sliding down it on Stolen Real Estate signs) means this is a classic multi-purpose park. Just make sure you specify top or bottom field when planning a kick-about here, traditionally the bottom field is for football and the top is for touch rugby and the bottom field has the better surface.


Likelihood of games- 3/10
Other diversions-6/10
Likely participants- Families, Somali Taxi Drivers, Preseason trainings (Wgtn Utd)
Other sports to contend with: Cricket, Kite Flyers, Golfers, touch rugby.

Tragic Rating= 6.0

Thanks to Ben over at Crucket for the pic of MacAllister Park

Crawford Green
I have a sentinemtal spot for Crawford Green. The less romantic amongst you would call it a goat track in the middle of a down at heel suburb, but it has the feel of a real village green in that it's surrounded by houses and the kids who live there play there. Strathmore has a growing immigrant population (Afghan, Assyrian, African) who descend upon Crawford Green with beat up old balls of all shape and hue. Samoan families stake their own claim on Crawford Green to play touch rugby, and before this modern influx Crawford Green was a hubbub of Greek community kickarounds- still hosting Olympic AFC's post season social tournie.


Likelihood of games- 8/10
Location-5/10 (furtherest field from the central city profiled so far)
Other diversions-3/10 (good bakeries nearby however)
Likely participants- Refugees and new (and old) migrants
Other sports to contend with: Touch Rugby

Tragic Rating: 5.3

Kilbirnie Park

Kilbirnie Park is a hub for many sports. With The Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre next door, and homeground to Poneke RFC and Marist AFC there is usualy some kind of informal sport going down. Football games are touch and go, though I have seen a regular Chinese gathering down there on Sunday mornings. Like MacAllister Park, it is on the main trunk line so you can peruse the state of play from your car before opting to take part.

Likelihood of games- 4/10
Other diversions-7/10 (Pop into the pool for a dip afterwards)
Likely participants- Families, College Kids from nearby St Pats, Preseason training (Marist AFC)
Other sports to contend with: Cricket, Rugby

Tragic Rating: 7


This is not intended to be a definitive guide. There are large parts of the city that are outside my consciousness, where I am sure regular kickabouts take place such as Karori Park, Harcourt Park Upper Hutt and Endeavour Park, Whitby. But these would, I believe, be mainly for the locals. Football tourists would rarely strike out for them in the hope of hitting a casual kickabout like you would with a more central park like Nairn Street, and where there are 2-3 other parks within 5 minutes which may also offer up a beautiful game or two.

As I said before please enlighten me if you know of something going down in your little part of the World.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How To Get Your Kicks In Wellington Pt. 1

A Tragic's Guide to Park Kickabouts

Kickabouts abound in Wellington. They always have, even before the advent of professional football in the Capital. Wellington is a cosmopolitan, immigrant city, and wherever citizens of the World's Game meet, green open spaces are given over to the noble kickabout.

Having admitted I am a Football Tragic I will also admit I am something of a conniseur of park kickabouts. At least in Wellington Central, South or East if there is a kickabout going down I will know about it. So here for your own personal reference is a guide to the best places to find a kickabout in Wellington.

Part One- Central City

There are a number of places to find a kickaround in the central city. Here are a few of the best.

Waitangi Park is an obvious place to start. Smack bang in the middle of town, in Summer it is a hive of action, and increasingly is a place to find a game of football or two.

It is close to the beach for a cooling swim afterwards, and is surrounded by a number of bars if you prefer a bit of internal cooling.

In the past it has been used by The Yellow Fever Fan Club to host five a side games against fans of visiting A-League clubs; both Melbourne and Sydney have been hosted here.

So proximity is in its favour, but the grass is thin and pebbley underneath which can result in nasty grazing, and you are just as likely to find a game of touch, frisbee or even an Arts Festival Event as a game of footie.

At least if there is no footie there's coffee, gelato, basketball, skateboarding or people watching to occupy your time.


Likelihood of games- 3/10
Location- 9/10
Other diversions 10/10
Likely participants: Backpackers, pissheads (AKA Yellow Fever)
Other sports to contend with: Touch Rugby, Joggers, BMX, Skateboarders, Petanque, Basketballers.

Tragic rating= 7.3

Prince of Wales Park

Nestled in the hilly suburb of Mount Cook, Prince of Wales Park is not quite as grand as its name suggest. Really a rugby and cricket ground it is quite a popular kickabout spot in the summer season. There are, however two parks, so if organising a game here make sure you specify top or bottom field lest you split the participants.
If there are no games on the bush walks are quite fun, and it is only a short hop to one of the most consistent kickaround locations: Nairn Street Park.


Likelihood of games- 5/10
Location-6/10 (pretty but hard to find)
Other diversions-6/10
Likely participants- social teams in pre-season training
Other sports to contend with: Rugby (Winter), Cricket (Summer) Mountain Bikers, Harriers,

Tragic Rating= 5.6

Nairn Street Park

This is one of the best places to pick up a game in Wellington. Situated on a ridge on the way to Brooklyn it has a sweeping view of the harbour. The steep walk up is tough but means that you'll be warm by the time you reach the field. With plenty of low-rent Council Housing nearby refugees and migrants, as well as clued-up backpackers flock to the park on Sunny Sundays to play footie. Sportzone Sports run their Summer footie out of here so on Summer week nights there are always games on, not neccesarily pick up, but if you take your boots and smooch around chances are you'll get a run at some point. Sportzone's industry, however, does mean that by the end of Summer parts of Nairn are dustier than the Sahara, but it also means that there are usually good field markings to negate 'ball out of play' arguments.
If there are no games on the views are great for picnics and Central Park is just across the road with an extensive network of walks and a great playground for the weans.


Likelihood of games- 9/10
Other diversions-6/10
Likely participants- teams in pre-season training, African migrants, strong culture of mixed (men and women) games.
Other sports to contend with: Frisbee, Picnicers, Stoners.

Tragic Rating= 8.0

Rugby League Park

Training ground for the Wellington Lions and Wellington Hurricanes Rugby teams, RL Park is an unlikely place to find a football kickabout. But most Sunday mornings there is a regular kickaround here run by a group of tragics known as Newtown Athletic FC. More recently the Yellow Fever have been holding regular kickarounds here as well. They even update the time and date on a special forum thread:


Rugby League Park is also going to be the location of the City's second purpose built Generation 3 artificial, so it will no doubt be a hub of informal football, if you manage to kick the Tongan International Rugby team off it first.


Likelihood of games- 10/10 (only because you can check the website first)
Other diversions-5/10
Likely participants- Yellow Feverites and other hungover tragics such as myself
Other sports to contend with: Profesional Rugby Players who won't brook no sissyness

Tragic Rating: 7.6

So thats the lowdown on the city- Nairn Park is the best place for casual kickabouts, but if you want a guaranteed turnout cast an eye over the Yellow Fever forum and find out what time the next game is on at Rugby League Park.

Coming next: The Tragic's Guide to Kickarounds in the Southern and Eastern Suburbs, and Park Football Etiquette.

(If I have forgotten a park in the central city, or if you know of a place to find regular kickabouts please enlighten me in the comments section below)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

How tragic

It's been one week since I launched this blog on the crest of a wave of NZ football success.

In that week I have made 8 posts, acquired 1 cyberstalker follower (Hi Robb!), had 1 comment from across the ditch (Hi Hamish!), refused 1 request from Dom Post to interview me on my sock story (I thought it was fine for a blog, but would look a wee bit twee on a broadsheet, don't ya think?) and had 197 views since I installed that little clicker thing last Friday night.

Granted about 30 of those views are me obsessing about my blog, and I did blackmail my football team with diminished game time next season if they didn't come and have a squiz, but the rest are legit- mainly, I think from the Yellow Fever Website, on which I am a regular poster boy.

Immediately after I launched the blog I did a google search for the phrase Foootball Tragic and came across this blog: http://thefootballtragic.blogspot.com/

(Why I didn't search before I named the blog escapes me!)

Like Mike Salter, The Aussie Football Tragic, the name Football Tragic was also in "within easy reach in my subconscious", a kind of shortcut to explain a life made complicated by the simplest game.

So as part homage, and part explanation, to Mike, here are my own credentials, or lack thereof, for being a Football Tragic.

Arguments AGAINST calling myself a Football Tragic:

1. I don't have a club.

When I was younger I'd tell people I supported Everton because I fell for football in the 80's, when the Toffees were a force. But I soon realised I knew f'all about the FA Cup Winners of 1984. The Hand of God Blog does a better job of describing the incongruity of being a football supporter in a time and place when there were no big local clubs to support, at least not on the goggle nor google box.

Now when people hear I like football they always ask me what team I support, and I shrug. I have to be honest and say I don't have one- I genuinely follow football for the sake of football. Sure there are teams I believe are more worthy than others, and of course I follow my local clubs such as Wellington United, Team Wellington and the resurgent Phoenix, but when Wellington secured an A-League Franchise my joy was more about the chance to see better quality football, to have the experience of banter and game-day rituals than the blind devotion of following a club which shares your postcode.

2. I know a truckload about football, but I don't really know anything about football.

I know things like club nicknames and how they got them, I know why they chose their colours, I know all about the 'miracle on grass' and the 'Battle of Berne' but I draw a blank when it comes to modern tactics, and the most recent signings of this club or that.

Before the recent World Cup qualifier every fan was talking about what formation Ricki Herbert should play, and how the weather would affect the match- I didn't really know, and I didn't really care. I suspect that most tactical discussions are at their heart naive, since football is a game of a mere 90 minutes but a full 90 emotions, where a gee'd up manager on the sideline shouting insights like "give it some welly!" and " put it back in the mixer!" is as influential as the logical stare of a sang froid 'tactician.'.

In my own humble opinion I think Ricki makes decisions with his heart anyway, and the gamble to play three strikers home and away against Bahrain was a master stroke of instinct over the accepted conventions of knock-out football.

Arguments FOR calling myself a Football Tragic:

1. Like I already said- I know a lot about football.

I am a jogging encyclopaedia of arcana- none of it useful and most of it football. But, unlike most trainspotters, I am always happy to be proven wrong and to learn from a mistake- like the time I told a Bavarian native that his club Bayern Munich was named after a pharmaceutical company, mistaking them for Bayer Leverkusen. Now that was embarassing.

2. I waste copious amounts of time on seemingly pointless 'football related' projects.

Like searching google earth for bird's eye views of football stadia, or even park football, to try and find pictures of actual games being played. (Don't tell me you haven't done this.) It's like a Where's Wally where Wally wears footie boots.

I compile stats from my own club games (yes, Capital Football Div 9- very sad) Stats like shots on and off target, corners conceded, corners won. Who cares? I do.

3. I really really really like watching and playing football.

I will watch it anywhere, anytime and in any format. From juniors to street football, from indoor to park kickabouts, I think I'd rather watch a mediocre game of footie than a very good game of Rugger such as Super 14 etc. (But never having been to a live All Blacks game I will hold fire on that one until I have seen my first All Black Haka in the flesh).

I try and take a ball with me where ever I go (there are two stashed in the car). If there are no kids or willing adults about to play ball I'll day dream cup winning volleys on an empty park till the cows come home.

I went on a holiday to Rarotonga and packed a size 4 ball (for the extra space). Once there I took off on a moped, and at Titikaveka School I found some boys playing Rugby. Once I pulled out the ball the game soon changed, though the island boys could not help the odd Henry-esque flourish of the hand or two, so deeply engrained was the Rugby tradition.

I was meant to leave the ball behind to plant a seed of soccer on that rocky Webb Ellis enclave but I couldn't do it. What if someone wanted to play with me at the airport?

Now that's tragic.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feeling a bit like Billy the Fish

I was meant to write a big blog spot tonight about my football tragic credentials etc etc

It was all already mapped out in my everbusy melon, BUT, a three hour power cut in Newtown meant no computer, and that coupled with a gorgeous spring evening chatting with neighbours over Reisling and Scrumpy means I feel a little bit like Billy the Fish;

Flapping about out of water in imminent danger of an England call up? Stay tuned loyal readers...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Two Games of Two Halves

Yesterday I saw 90 minutes of local football action. But the first 45 was at Newtown Park where Team Wellington and Otago United were locked at 0-0 at the break, and then a few hours later I went to the pub where I caught the second half of Wgtn Phoenix as they wilted in sweltering temperatures in Newcastle. So I witnessed no goals, although both matches bore them. Team Wellington going down to two second half Otago strikes. 0 from 3 at home this season for Team Welly; a disasterous start to a much lauded campaign- even back up All White's Keeper Jimmy Bannatyne was unable to save their blushes. My mate Dave 'Writer's Block' Armstrong ponficated as we watched the Nix that Team Wellington tried to play like a team of stars but Otago United were a team, and that, he said, is the secret of winning football.

Dave and I chatted away over a delicious Three Boys Golden Ale at Bar Edward, as the Phoenix clung to a first half lead courtesy of a Paul Ifill volley. In the end the bush-fire temperature was the winner as both teams tired, but strangely Newcastle burnt out much quicker. The home team's perfomance was typified by the day dreams of a dozy ball boy, who took a hazy age to return a ball to the Jet's keeper as he raced the clock to nick a share of the points. The whole pub liked my "even your ball boys are shit" quip, although to be fair the lad was probably just bored and dehydrated.

So the Nix stay in 6th and pick up their first win on the road since November 7th.

In between the two games I attended a 4th Birthday party with as much chocolate cake as you could care to eat, and had to take my son to the park to run off the sugar rush afterwards. At Crawford Green a melange of refugee tweenies lined up potshots at a disinterested 4 foot goalkeeper. The boys, from Assyria, Afghanistan and Oromo backgrounds (I know cos I had taught them all before many years ago) were only too happy to have an adult go in goal to stop their shots, even if i was really only trying to stop Miro being clattered as he grubbed around the goal mouth. Without getting too mushy it was great to see the different tribes mixing it up on a nice Sunday afternoon, even if I had to leave the field of play to take Miro back for bathtime.

And tonight I had an unexpected call up for more Twilight Football Action. We played a very good side made up of Wgtn United first and second teamers. I struggled with a belly full of pasta and a glass of red wine but scored a nice solo goal. I realised I am not quite the athlete I think I am- more the archetypal park striker, all bluster and brazen, able to pull of a flukey goal or two but lazy in the track back and costly in defence.

Tomorrow I aim to give you more of an insight into my 'football tragic' credentials, as promised to Hamish from the Lucky Country.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It was one week ago today…

…(as the Beatles didn’t sing in Sergeant Peppers) in which the White Noise descended upon Wellington Stadium to spur New Zealand on to the Football World Cup.

I got my own little bit of Instant Karma this week with a nice pay back from a photographer I helped out after the game. Peter McDonald, a photographer with the Fairfax stable, saw me running off with the Player Mascots after the anthems and asked me the name of the kid standing with Skipper Ryan Nelsen. I didn’t know but told him I’d find out and tell him after the game. In the post-victory pandemonium I forgot to find him, so on Monday morning I tracked down Peter’s number and gave him the child’s info, including the fact that he was a Petone Junior and that his great Uncle was Barry Pickering, third choice keeper in the 82 team. Peter said this would all make for a nice local colour piece in his employer’s Hutt News community paper, and thanked me for following up.

So as a kind of thanks I guess Peter was happy to fulfil my request for some photos from the match, and of the Players’ Mascots, who I had looked after before the game.

While the Petone Juniors were well pleased that they got to stand next to the All Whites I thought the tougher job was for the Western Suburbs Juniors, who accompanied Bahrain. I told them they had to fight their patriotism and be neutral,that the Bahraini team would be nervous and would need their support. So I was thrilled when this story surfaced about one of the Mascots wishing his Bahraini player good luck, in a most uniquely Kiwi way. I remember Manaia cos he was quiet and calm while others were winding themselves up in anticipation. Coincidentally or not Manaia is a Maori word meaning Spiritual Guardian.

So below are the photos which Peter sent through, not exclusive to this sight per se but still a unique insight into the historic win last Saturday, and my small part in the match.

ALL photos courtesy and copyright of Peter McDonald

Friday, November 20, 2009

No comparison

I feel I have to comment on the Thierry Henry incident further, since it is all over the sports headlines, has been tabled in the Irish Parliament, and I even overheard a greengrocer on Cuba St. expounding the relative moralism of Platini's 1980's French side versus this less deistic incarnation of Les Bleus.

What gets me is that Henry's handball is being compared to the infamous 1986 "Hand of God" Maradona handball. To me there is simply no comparison.

Henry's foul was an ugly, blatant double handle. He even had the Gaul to admit as much afterwards:

Maybe I am a little naive, but in comparison Maradona's foul was a piece of artistry. As someone described (maybe Diesgo himself?) he 'pickpocketed' the English with his sleight of hand:

It was a great leap by a little man against the giant Shilton. The deception continued at the press conference when he was asked if he handled the ball. That was when coined the phrase saying "if there was a hand, it was god's hand." and besides he sealed the deal a few minutes later by doing this:

Maradona's goal was clever. Henry's was a disgrace. No comparison.

The statute of limitations has run out on the England-Argentina World Cup Quarter-Final. It has entered folklore and will never be replayed (although I'd love to see a geriatric Shilton versus a coked-up Diego). But FIFA should follow precedent and replay the France-Ireland World Cup Qualifier.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

All Aboard Zulu Air Flight SA2010!

Today was a classic football day. The last of the 32 places were confirmed for South Africa 2010, some booked their places by fair means and some by foul, but at least we know who'll be joining the Whitebait (as oppossed to minnows) New Zealanders on the world's biggest stage next June.

I also played some 'twilight football' at Nairn St. Park, kinda like a spiritual home for football for me in Wellington since this is where I started picking up games. Twilight is a 5 a side version of football and on a still warm evening like tonight it is great fun. Plus we won 6-1.

I ended up wearing the sock. It was nice piece of kit and it looked great. When I put it on I noticed the number 4 on the bottom so I guess it belonged to Abdulla Baba Fatadi:

The day began with my 1 year old son, Miro, waking me at 5.30am to play wrestle . The upside of the rude awakening was that listening to the 6.00am news I realised the final World Cup Qualifiers were being played this very morning. I tuned into Justin.tv and watched the last 45 of Algeria V. Egypt, being played on neutral soil in Sudan.

The internet is a stunning invention. At home in my pyjamas in Wellington I watched the angst and ecstasy of a live World Cup play off in Africa, in between showing Miro a slideshow of all the Flicker photos in the world tagged with "Plane". Fun for the whole family!

What struck me about the the Algeria/Egypt tie was that for all FIFA's attempts at homogenising and sanitising the world game, with its clock watching Match Commissoners, Stadium "Look" programmes and referee's directives, football is still a sprawling, polyglottal mess of emotions and cultures. When the referee blew for full time, sending Algeria to the World Cup on the back of a single, brilliant goal, all chaos broke loose in the Sudanese stadium; Smoke, gun-toting soldiers and the Algerian keeper climbing the cross bar in elation. A far cry from the comparitively safe and orderly celebrations in Wellington.

So the full 32 are known. The usual suspects are there- it wouldn't be a World Cup without Brazil, Germany, England, Italy & Netherlands. Spain are there as reigning European Champions and former greats France had to rely on a dastardly mugger's goal against lowly Ireland to qualify- for Shame!

Amongst the gatecrashers are North Korea (!),Greece, Algeria, Slovenia, New Zealand and Honduras. Coincidentally the last time Honduras was in a World Cup was 1982 as well.

There is a certain poetic justice that the last team to qualify was Uruguay. Once feted and proud, winner of 2 FIFA World Cups, Uruguay is now forced to play off against the likes of Costa Rica for their seat on the last plane to footballing mammon.

Here is the full list of countries competing in World Cup 2010, in the order in which the qualified:

  1. South Africa (Hosts)
  2. Japan
  3. Australia
  4. Korea Republic (South Korea)
  5. Netherlands
  6. Korea DPR (North Korea)
  7. Brazil
  8. Ghana
  9. England
  10. Spain
  11. Paraguay
  12. Cote D'Ivoire
  13. Germany
  14. Denmark
  15. Serbia
  16. Italy
  17. Chile
  18. Mexico
  19. United States
  20. Switzerland
  21. Slovakia
  22. Argentina
  23. Honduras
  24. New Zealand
  25. Nigeria
  26. Cameroon
  27. Algeria
  28. Greece
  29. Slovenia
  30. Portugal
  31. France
  32. Uruguay

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A most stressful position

 Spot the difference:

One came to power on a wave of expectation lauded by a public who thought he could right the wrongs of the past and lead the nation into the history books, staking a rightful claim amongst other world powers. He failed miserably and plummeted in public esteem after a catastrophic fall from grace.... The other is former Soviet Leader Boris Yeltsin.

Bahraini football coach Milan Macala, a Czech, will no doubt fall on his sword, or be pushed upon it, after another fall-at-the -last-hurdle World Cup Crusade.

He has finally spoken out saying that his team felt the stress and pressure of the do or die World Cup game in Wellington.

Being a football manager is no doubt a stressful job, as evidenced by the high rate of heart attacks among top flight coaches, but with the risk comes reward and when the dust settles it is, after all, just a game of football.

Try talking about stress and pressure to Macala lookalike Boris Yeltsin. After a tenure pockmarked with corruption, guerilla war and economic collapse you could forgive him for going a wee bit Britney on it:
Yeltsin Highlights Reel

Here's hoping that Macala, by all accounts an honourable foe for All Whites Coach Ricki Herbert last weekend, exits with a bit more grace.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A single red sock

I have always been a scavenger. Like a magpie I strut about the abandoned battlements looking for the golden cartridge which felled the colonel.

In my youth I lived nearby the Arawa racecourse in Rotorua. After raceday I'd scour the grandstand for coin & a winner's lost ticket, often financing a week's worth of lolly from the Dairy with my pickings.

After the New Zealand v. Bahrain World Cup Qualifier last Saturday, while the All Whites dressing room heaved to the Black Eyed Peas (great team- terrible choice of post match music IMHO), the Bahraini dressing room stood empty with the door invitingly ajar.

Some minutes earlier I had seen a most sombre sight outside this very door. The Bahraini number 16, Sayed Mohamed Adnan, who had one hour earlier missed a penalty, a goal which would surely have taken his small (but incredibly rich) island nation to the World Cup in South Africa, was coiled in the foetal position on the ground; a towel over his head, an Official kneeling at his side. Sobbing inconsolably his despair spoke volumes about what the miss meant to him and to his country- a deep gulf of guilt consuming his psyche.

So when I saw that the Bahrainis had sidled off silently into the windy night I was curious as to how they had left the scene of their collective crime.

The dressing room was still and quiet- tape cuttings strewn all over the floor and benches. A full box of bananas and apples left untouched on a table, a fridge full of red and blue Powerade. Pretty standard post stress disorder really, except for a little red sliver in the corner- a single red sock.

I had noticed the Bahraini kit during the game- spiffing Puma brand socks, shirts and jerseys- all elasticity and promise, and now here was a discarded specimen.

I scooped it up, popped it into my bag and searched for its brother. On a massage table I saw it; massacred-cut up into three strips for tape, or perhaps some ritualistic suicide bandana which Mohamed Adnan had prepared for himself, fearing the wrath of his return to Bahrain.

I was a little distraught as I had already pictured myself turning up at a park kick about somewhere with my World Cup Bahraini socks pulled up over my knees, but now this was a lop sided fantasy.

What should I do? There is already a tidy little market in All Whites’ qualification memorabilia, as evidenced by the scorn and angst on this Yellow Fever (All White fans’) forum thread.

But this is different, this is no winner’s trophy- it reeks of failure, despite its rosy hue.

Should I wash it to wear again, or leave it sweat soaked with misery? Shall I auction it online for charity or keep it as my own sordid little souvenir? Help me with my angst fellow football tragics…what should I do with my lonely red sock?

Welcome to the life of a football tragic

Everybody's blogging at me. / I don't hear a word they're saying, / Only the echoes of my mind:

Welcome to the life of a football tragic. I grew up in the last large landmass to be discovered, a long necklace of pearly jewels dripping from the humid South Pacific to the cold Southern Ocean- not exactly tropical, but lush and fruitful, and full of warrior mystique.

I'm talking about New Zealand/Aotearoa, which glistens like a pearl at the bottom of the whirl.

Heavens above, so many myths abound here about aggression and confrontation- how the demi god Maui stunned the Sun so as to create more hours in the day, or how the true-to-life chieftan Te Rauparaha created the All Blacks a new Haka by hiding from a raiding party in a kumara pit under a Kuia's fanny.

It's like our men and women were born to punch above their weight- a typically aggressive turn of phrase that is wheeled out every time our sports teams achieve somesuch semi-miracle, or a rural bred scientist has split some past-participle or otherford. But last Saturday night, as a football tragic, I witnessed a true sporting miracle, when for only the second time in my lifetime New Zealand qualified for the 2010 Football World Cup in South Africa-Praise Sepp Blatter!

I had the honour of playing a behind the scenes role in the tragi-comedy too- employed by New Zealand Football to recruit and organise the Stretcher bearers, and to coordinate the darling wee players' escorts; the juniors who hold the players' hand during the opening stanza.

Here is a Youtube clip taken by my colleague Ken, of us all lining up in the tunnel- the atmosphere is electric, but tragic as I am I am far too focussed on the job at hand, to be overwhelmed by the moment. Can you spot me:

More about my tragic life in the days to come, and more about that fateful night too

Stay tuned amigos~