When I was growing up in the Waikato we had certain values instilled in us from birth. We hated sissies. We hated daylight savings. We hated Auckland.
When you watched sport, any sport, (but only sissies liked sports other than rugby, and we’ve covered what we thought of sissies) you supported two teams. Waikato, and whoever was playing Auckland.
You can take the boy out of the Waikato, but you can’t take the Waikato out of the boy. I don’t take such a dim view of sissies anymore and I have fallen in love with football. But when I go to watch two Auckland football clubs play against each other, it really is because I am a true footballaholic, not because I want to support one team or the other.
When I go to NZFC (New Zealand Football Championship) matches in general however, it is because it is a competition that I thoroughly enjoy.
The standard… well it is poor. No point trying to deny that. So poor that I really don’t have much to compare it to that might give an international reader an idea as to just how poor. I have been to Italian Eccellenza football – the tier below Serie D, which is essentially division 5 in the old money. That was clearly a higher standard than the NZFC with bigger stadia and bigger crowds.
But you know what? Who cares about the quality? I embrace turgid football. I adore quaint little grounds. I applaud Auckland City’s 8 or so ultras who stand up and sing through the whole game. Despite being a complete coffee snob and foodie, I always get the soggy chips, the cheese and pineapple toasted sandwich and the $2 cup of insipid instant coffee. It’s part of the experience!
The only thing that is usually missing is freezing cold weather and drizzle. The NZFC is a summer league. That does not quite feel right. Sun shining and birds chirping merrily don’t quite match the rest of the package. But there was none of that today. Today was perfect! Despite being late spring, today it was cold and drizzly. Perfect NZFC weather!
Auckland City’s home ground, Kiwitea Street is a standard New Zealand club ground. Small. Cosy. Intimate. You sit or stand almost right on the touch line. Under no circumstances do you divert your attention from the game. Not because you might miss something. But because you risk getting clocked on the skull by a wayward pass!
The outcome of the game hardly matters to me when I’m watching this level. What matters most is that we have live football in this country that one can buy a season ticket to, that has club rooms and flood lights and that has crowds and fans.
Perhaps, like Abba it is good because of how bad it is. Or perhaps it is good because when it’s all there is, you might as well make the best of it.
All I know for certain is I LOVE IT!!
Categories: NZ Men's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.