Home' Waiheke Weekender : 27 September 2012 Contents 27 September 2012
2 Waiheke Weekender
Sitting on a wet
seat on the coldest
night of the year,
the arctic condi-
tions, I did brief-
ly question my
sanity one recent
I had decided
to confront my
fear of crowds,
and sports crowds in particular, by taking my
son to a football game at North Harbour Stadium
in the er, not so enticing suburb of Albany.
I went with a group from the island's foot-
ball club, some of whom were veterans of big
stadium games, others who had never been to
Having had only one trip to Eden Park during
what turned out to be a deafeningly loud rugby
game between two provincial teams, I was
apprehensive about my ability to cope with the
mad clamour of fans in a frenzy, not to mention
the possibility of fying bottles and crushing
However, I needn't have worried. The
scale of the whole experience was much more
manageable, refecting the relatively under-the-
radar status of football as compared with rugby
or cricket in this country. And it was the early
stages of a world cup qualifying round between
the All Whites and the Solomon Islands, a team
that is currently about 153 in the FIFA world
rankings, so not a huge crowd puller.
Now as readers of this column will know,
sport in general has not featured largely on my
horizon up to now -- barring the Olympics -- and
football not at all.
The whole 'football hooligan' phenomenon,
with its ugly images of raging, violent fans had
put me off the game when I lived in the UK, and
I had entirely, and unreasonably as it turned out,
written it off as a consequence.
But an odd and delightful thing has happened,
and it's been creeping up on me gradually... I've
In all fairness, I'm very far away from ever
playing it myself without causing my team
mates to strangle me in frustration, but -- entirely
by listening to the people who coach my son's
group -- I've learnt a few things about how it
should be played.
Even sitting in a frigidly cold, half empty
stadium with rain
ing me and the cold
my extremities to
blocks of ice, I found
the grace and style
of our star players as
they toyed with their
I was surprised by how big they were. Not
by rugby standards, but tall and wide enough
to make their opposition look very small and
And you didn't have to be a sports journal-
ist to work out that we were thumping them.
The poor Solomon Islanders were out of their
element in the freezing wasteland of a southern
pitch, slipping and sliding on the wet ground,
hands gloved ineffectually against the less-than-
The reason we looked so in command, some-
one who knows these things
told me, was because we
weren't under any pressure.
Put Spain or Germany
into the equation and we
wouldn't have had any time
to be putting on such a classy
display; we wouldn't have had
the ball for that long; full-stop.
Which gave me some idea of
how very, very good those teams must be.
As it was, we -- see I've already started saying
'we' as if it was me up there -- had plenty of
time to pass with precision and lots of chances at
goal, ending up with a whopping six of them, to
the opposition's one; and yes, I was jumping out
of my seat and cheering like a real, genuine fan.
Speaking of which, looking around at the
crowd I expected to see lots of blokes with cans
What I didn't expect to see however, were
people taking their clothes off.
For the uninitiated, there is a sort of profes-
sional fan club called 'White Noise' who I
presume must follow the All Whites around,
chanting at crucial moments throughout the
game in practised unison.
And appropriately I suppose, they are all
dressed in white…until about fve minutes before
the end of the game when they inexplicably feel
the need to take off their tops and display their,
er, mostly white podgy stomachs to the assem-
bled crowd, not to
mention the televi-
Now while this
might seem like a
good plan in the
tropics, I can't imag-
ine it was much fun
at North Harbour
Stadium with the
at about 3° Celsius.
However this minor inconvenience did
nothing to deter them, nor did it put off their
female counterparts, who also seemed keen to
bare all in the name of er, sport? Patriotism?
This is where I part company with the obses-
sive sports fan. Never, and I really mean never,
could I imagine a situation where I would feel
inspired to take my clothes off in front of a
stadium of people, however many cans of beer
I'd consumed. Even assuming what I had to
show off were as sought after as those of Kate
Anyway despite this mildly eyebrow-raising
diversion, we had a great time and chattered all
the way home on the ferry about the ins and outs
of the game.
An outing that not so long ago I would have
classed up there in the 'worst nightmare' cate-
gory had been an epiphany instead. Bring on
Football fan fever
The first word
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Never, and I really mean never,
could I imagine a situation where I
would feel inspired to take my clothes off in
front of a stadium of people, however many
cans of beer I'd consumed. Even assuming
what I had to show off were as sought
after as those of Kate Middleton.
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