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: