Mt Albert-Ponsonby 1, North Shore United 1 (The Shore won 4-5 on penalties)
Anderson Park, Auckland, 1992
New Zealand’s ever humble club football grounds can feel a bit like derelict graveyards nowadays. Unkempt, overgrown and crumbling. With nobody left in the realm of the living who remembers the occupants, they have become dejected looking, lonely monuments of a bygone era.
In 1992, our National League was in its death throes, shortly to be replaced by regional winter leagues and a modest franchise based nationwide summer comp. North Shore United was a glamour club, in so much as we had them. They had been National League winners on 2 occasions and Cup winners on 6. When my brother, a passing supporter of The Shore, dragged my decidedly unenthusiastic carcass to their Cup quarter final, he billed it as “something different to do”. I remember thinking that apart from having to endure the odd Coronation Street Special, it was going to be right up there with the most boring two hours of my life.
Some avid fans of European football might have agreed with my pre game analysis but instead, to my great surprise, I had a great time. I have to admit I don’t remember all that much about the game itself, but what I do remember has become part of the fabric of how I have enjoyed the beautiful game in its local form ever since.
I remember there were maybe 50-60 people standing around the side lines and thinking that most of them were probably related to the players. I remember 20 odd supporters standing on the balcony of the club rooms yelling abuse at the opposing team and the match officials. Best of all, I remember the penalty shootout. I’d never seen one before and given I hadn’t yet grown attached to any teams that had been the victim of one, they seemed at the time like the best thing since Lego. Perhaps the most influential thing I remember however, is how absolutely besotted I was with the cheese and pineapple toasted sandwiches available from the tuck shop! To this day I get one at every game I attend as a matter of ritual.
I played football as a child, but alas, I was woeful and the experience was somewhat traumatic. I had no interest in the game again until I was much older and then only as a spectator who evolved into a passionate follower. In my youth, cricket was my game. Our provincial rep side, Northern Districts was my team. Their beautiful leafy home of Seddon Park in Hamilton was my sanctuary. Many a sunny summer’s day was spent on the grass banks, watching some great players and collecting autographs. Winter and the rugby and football season was seen as nothing but a dreadful and unnecessary interruption to the gentleman’s game. This began to change at Anderson Park on that day in 1992.
Following my first game, I became interested in Waikato United, my local National League club. From there, Italy and USA ’94 captured my imagination and A.S. Roma followed on as surely as the New Zealand cricket team does versus Australia. Through all that growth as a football lover however, I have maintained a love of lower league football. It’s charming, quirky and relaxing. Like Abba, in some ways it’s good because of how bad it is. But most of all it’s pure, unvarnished, warts and all football the way it started. When I watched that game in Mount Albert, I was having a similar experience to what a kid my age would probably have had at Newton Heath in 1880, long before football was fashionable. You don’t get that at Old Trafford.
Categories: NZ Chatham Cup
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/