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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.

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