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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Bizarre

The creator of New Zealand's greatest contribution to UK terrace chant culture has died.Pauly Fuemana died in Auckland this morning after a short illness.

As lead singer of the Otara Millionaires Club (OMC) Fuemana had an unexpected global hit with the catchy hip hop song How Bizarre.

The song peaked at no. 4 on the UK singles charts and, more bizarrely, was used as a terrace chant at certain football grounds, usually whenever something out of the ordinary happened, football bloopers as it were.

I remember hearing it as a steward for Bristol City at Ashton Gate- it brought a wee tear to my eye and made me stroke my pounamu in pride.

It is somewhat ironic that football fans picked up on this song since Pauly Fuemana was from the Rugby and League stronghold of South Auckland. Being part Maori and Niuean, I'd wager that he would've had little time for the supposed sissyness of Soccer. I might be wrong; He may now be spurning the chance to punt the ole pig skin over those pearly posts with George Nepia, preferring instead to play pick up Football with the Busby Babes and George Best, while the shades of Hillsborough fill that heavenly pitch with the wonder of his one great hit.

Come to think of it, one of the main characters of the song is named Pele, after all....

This post may be only vaguely football related, but nonetheless Pauly, The Football Tragics salute you:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Phoenix Lose the Longest Derby

Wellington Phoenix went down 2-0 to Perth, in what may euphemistically be called 'the Longest Derby'.

In a league dominated by teams from Australia's Eastern Seaboard, Wellington and Perth are the geographically distant outsiders. It somehow seems right to think of Wellington v. Perth as a derby of a different kind. It is their very uncommonness that they have in common, like the disparite dogmas of Glasgow Rangers and Celtic, which unites the fierce rivals in an uncomfortable bond.

The Wellington to Perth road trip must be one of the longest in domestic football, and makes a sweet mockery out of the cosy bonhomie of, say, the Maltese or Andorran football leagues. Perhaps only Russia has a domestic football match that requires a 10,000+ Kilometre round trip. (Happy to be corrected in the comments section below.)

Eugene Dadi had a baffling, meandering, sort of homecoming. Fouled from the first minute, he was goaded into picking up a soft early yellow and was lucky not to see red mere minutes later. It seemed like he was hell bent on reacquainting his studs with the shins of every one of his ex-team mates. The strategy failed, the Perth Glory's covert fouling was much more effective in disrupting Dadi's flow and getting under his skin; Paul Ifill also copped a bit of attention, repeatedly being spilled over by the Glory game plan of harassment and niggle. It was not a pretty game, but Perth's two first half goals were at least quality finishes, even if the Nix defence was generous in its absentia.

In the second half Dadi's horror show return to the Indian Oceanside reached its nadir with a pathetic 73rd minute penalty, limply rolled to the keeper, after a clownish run up.

In what was a forgettable night for the Nix; feeble up front and phantoms at the back, perhaps the thing I'd most like to blot from the record is the terrible 'Come Play' commemorative jerseys.

The sentiment, at least, was fantastic. This was the 'Come Play' Round, where each team wore a special jersey to promote Australia's World Cup bid, and each player's top will be auctioned off for charity afterwards. Although the Phoenix are a NZ based team the potential spin off for NZ football from Australia hosting the World Cup could be huge.

But the shirts themselves were a throw back to the eighties- hypercolour tied dyed messes with cutesy little Kangaroos on them. Gok Wan should stick to shopping malls for his makeovers, and leave the football shirts alone.

Ironically the 'Come Play' round, which was meant to draw attention to the A-League as a supporting factor in Australia's World Cup Bid, was defined by ill discipline and confrontation. Plenty of bookings, poor tackles and silly fouls. North Queensland's All White Jeremy Brockie had his ankle snapped in a rash challenge by Brisbane Roar's Michael Zullo, so much for transtasman goodwill and cooperation in the name of the World Cup. Brockie's dream of appearing in a World Cup is probably as busted as his leg, while Zullo blithely played on, hoping to be in contention. for the Socceroos' squad. Even 'God' wasn't in a charitable mood; North Queensland's Robbie Fowler sulked in the stands after being benched.

The Central Coast v. Gold Coast game, a true derby at least in geographical terms if not history, was typical of the round. It was feisty, marred by fouls and dust ups, but still managed to be a snore fest.(I literally fell asleep watching it.) The casual observer might think that the invitation to come play was confused about what code it was referring to.

If this was meant to be the shop window for the beautiful game in Australia, then those tie-dyed t-shirts should be ripped into rags, and used to wipe the window clean.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Team Wellington's Coach in Dog Attack

This could have been a lot worse. A lot worse.

Team Wellington Coach Stu Jacobs, one helluva nice guy, sustained serious injuries after trying to break up a dog on dog attack at a college based youth football clinic.

Given the fact that his own five and four year old daughters were nearby, it was probably more of an instinctive, rather than rational, response. Whatever the motivation it says a lot about his make up that he bothered to intervene, and a medal for bravery, (with a bar for stupidity?) should be in the post. He even had the presence of mind to get his TW top in the photo- a true professional!

Good luck with the recovery Stu, and may Team Wellington channel some of that mongrel attitude when they take on Auckland FC tomorrow.

You may have to put up with ACFC fans giving you good natured grief with chants like 'Who let the dogs out" and "How much is that doggy in the window" though!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti United

The absolute tragedy in Haiti compels the world to act. The football world has been no different in its humanitarian reaction. If you haven't already donated here is a win-win way to support the cause.

100% of proceeds from the sale of this shirt will be donated to the relief fund. Imagine how stylish, and globally responsible, your pub team would look all decked out in this little number.

Given the disparity in the GDP of Haiti and your average top flight football club, perhaps millionaire owners like Chelsea's Roman Abramovich could give up lunch for a day, or perhaps donate a thousand pounds for each goal his 'play-things' score-that'd be a cool 7,000 pounds for the cause after last weekend's trouncing of the hapless Black Cats.

Check out the wine bill from one of his recent luncheons:

C'mon Abramovich, this roman excess would make Caligula blush, how about tempering it with a bit of charity?

Here is more about the disaster from the point of view of US Striker Jozy Altidore, who is of Haitian descent:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dadi is King of the Castle

Saturday 9 January 2010 was a very special day in Wellington, New Zealand.

The sun was beaming down on our own little patch of South Pacific paradise, and tourists scoffed ice-creams in the Botanic Gardens and on the Waterfront. Amongst them a handful of Brisbane Roar fans, in town to see their team take on the resurgent Wellington Phoenix.

It was the second to last day of my holidays. I started the day by heading up to the Town Belt with Miro to gather pinecones for the winter- it may seem like an odd choice of activity, but it is actually really fun and a 'recession friendly' father and son activity. Watching Miro stagger about the steep forest calling out for 'cones' gave me great joy, and now we have a few bags of starter fuel for our home fire.

After lunch I headed up to the Dell in the Botanic Gardens to partake in pre-game beer and a spot of Kubb, which urban legend has it was a training routine for viking warriors. This yard game is like a cross between Jenga, Petanque and Chess, and is easy to pick up but hard to put down.

It is quite a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon, hanging out with my footballing cohort Richard Hallam, whose aim was well off that day, missing the King by a country mile, despite the look of concentration in this (posed) shot:

After the half drunken game of Kubb we hightailed it to the stadium to watch the Nix.

The first half was nothing special really- the Nix defended well, but to be honest Brisbane looked an inferior force compared to past incarnations of the Queensland Oranje. Their one or two real chances of the half were snuffed out by former Brisbane keeper Liam Reddy, now wearing the Amber and Black of Wellington.

But the second half, oh, the second half. I moved from my usual spot near the Yellow Fever around to the rejects zone of aisle 10 by halfway, to try and get a different perspective on the game. I am glad I did, for I was in a prime spot to see Eugene Dadi stamp his mark on the match and his mark on Wellington, by producing a wonderfully timed overhead volley. Then, mere minutes later, he completed a debutant brace with an instinctive finish after some great build up work. The Nix kept attacking, and despite a consolation goal to the Roar (which in itself was a fine finish) the three points were safe.

The next day I went up to Martin Luckie Park with 20 other Yellow Feverites for the weekly kickaround, and spirits were high. Finally this season there is renewed optimism in the Phoenix camp and hushed voices are even discussing play-off football.

When life seems complicated, and even the sport you love is drawn into the maelstrom of chaos and terror, (an event which was made all the worse for the cackhanded political maneuvering afterwards) it is sometimes nice to just sit back and contemplate the simple things in life:

A gorgeous summer's day; pinecone hunting; obscure viking lawn games; and overhead bicycle kicks.

Enjoy Dadi's cool goal again, courtesy of 101 Great Goals:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Heart Belongs to Dadi

As Cole Porter so eloquently penned, and Ella Fitzgerald so elegantly sung:

"While tearin' off a game of golf
I may make a play for the caddie
But when I do, I don't follow through
'Cause my heart belongs to Dadi"

Wellington Phoenix have signed Ivorian international Eugene Dadi from Perth Glory. Dadi will be a physical presence up front and will no doubt be a great foil for the skillful Paul Ifill and Chris Greenacre to play off. Every time I watched Perth play the Nix I was impressed with Dadi. Like Ifill he seems to have more time than most, while others are scurrying into position he shuffles along at his own pace, calmly summing up the options before delivering a telling final ball.

The fact that the Phoenix attacking trio mentioned above are all foreigners makes a mockery of Asian Football Federation Chairman Bin Hammam's claim that Wellington Phoenix is an ersatz national team, and is being used solely for the purpose of strengthening our qualification for major tournaments. While there is no doubt that NZ football is stronger for the presence of the Phoenix, and that Ben Sigmund, Mark Paston and the other Wellington based All Whites must relish the regular competition of the A-League, the chance for those guys to train and play with the likes of Dadi and Ifill is just as important.

I think a Wellington Phoenix made up purely of Kiwis would have a detrimental effect on the game here, but if Bin Hamman had his way then the Phoenix will have to become registered as a fully Australian entity and our Kiwi players will count as foreign imports. While this is plainly ridiculous a balance is needed to keep the Phoenix as a development path for Kiwis while allowing the best of the rest of the World through the doors; increasing international profile, crowd revenue and allowing invaluable experience of different styles and cultures for our National team players.

So Dadi is coming home to Wellington. I look forward to seeing him in action this very weekend against the Brisbane Roar at Westpac Stadium. He will surely be a Yellow Fever favourite with a name that lends itself to clever chants based on Cole Porter songs and family-friendly puns.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dust Devils, Tumbleweeds, Uni Cyclists and the Photo of the Year

It's been a relaxed fortnight with very little football watching for me to comment on, apart from listening in to shaky radio coverage of Paul Ifill's two goal heroics for the Nix on New Years Eve, and watching a rather bizarre doco about Diego Maradona by underground auteur Kustarica, entitled simply Maradona. (I may review this film later so won't talk to much about it now).

Around Wellington it's like a ghost town; if not for the hordes of Unicyclists in town Dust Devils and Tumbleweeds would be the only animation.

One side effect of growing up loving football in a rugby mad country is that I have developed a healthy curiosity for all sports that buck the norm. You know at the end of the sports bulletin after they have shown the rugby, cricket, netball, horse racing and yachting, and then they show the bog snorkling or cheese-rolling? That's when they used to show the football footage, so I have been conditioned to sit up and take notice of those quaint, customary little events.

In the past I have been taken a shine to Gaelic Football, Aussie Rules, Hurling and Grid Iron. I can now add Unicycling to my minority sports report, since I have been spending some time this past week at Newtown Park watching the Track and Field criteria of the 15th Unicycle World Champs. This morning I went down to the Wellington Events Centre and caught some of the Unicycle Basketball- thats right, it's Basketball on a unicycle! These guys were incredible, and while some of the basketball skills were not the best, the combined skill of riding, turning, stopping, passing and shooting while on one wheel was very skillful.

If a team of pro basketballers were to play the best Uni-Basketballers, the first half being straight up basketball, the second half on Unicycles, I'd bet that the hippies would get creamed by the pros in the first half, but might just sneak in a point or two from a lucky three pointer, or a free throw. BUT in the second half the Unicyclists would wheel to victory unopposed; the basketballers struggling to even get on court, let alone block a shot or put up the rock. Only those Basketballers raised by circus folk would stand a chance and as far as I know that only includes Dennis Rodman.

Watching Unicyclists negotiating the wild streets of Newtown and the Waterfront, bent over at 45 degrees to cope with the wind, is a mesmerising little piece of whimsy in our otherwise forlorn and quiet little frontier town.

The media is also full of dust devils and tumbleweeds. Bored hacks and Summer interns trying to find a bright mirage in a dull desert. They either overblow flimsy news items which wouldn't stand up in the mid year storm of real news, or else they endlessly review the years' past successes with recycled lists and awkwardly fabricated awards.

Sometimes though this more laidback approach to news gathering can result in gentle nostalgia. Upon picking up the Summer edition of local community rag The Wellingtonian I was stoked to see that their 'Photo of the Year' across all categories was of the West African Keeper from the 2009 Culture Kicks Tournament. Culture Kicks is Wellington's own ethnic mini world cup- five a side and lively, with food, music and of course football.

I have a special attachment to this event since I was the instigator and main organiser for the first three years (including 2009) and managed to secure funding for it in the Local Council's Long Term Community Plan. It is a great event, and I remember the moment this photo was taken very well since I was the sideline commentator. West Africa were outplayed by Poland in the final, but had a chance to win it in regular time; their striker rounding the keeper only to miss the open goal. Alas, it finished 0-0 and Poland, from Christchurch, kept their nerve to win it from the spot. They collected the trophy and then a shuttle bus collected them, and rushed off to the airport, since the tournament went well over time.

This years' Culture Kicks is on March 28 at Martin Luckie Park, and teams can register at Sportzone. Lets just hope Poland remember to fly the trophy back up in time.

Here is the 2009 'Photo of the Year' of the West African keeper just before the penalty shootout: