Auckland City 0, Waikato FC 0
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, January 22 2012
The 150 kilometre journey up State Highway 1 and over the Bombay Hills from Hamilton to Auckland. All Waikato natives know it well. Waikato sportspeople know it even better. Declan Edge, coach of Waikato FC, describes the journey to Kiwitea Street to take on Auckland City as “like Athletic Bilbao travelling to the Nou Camp to take on Barcelona”. Hmmmm… Personally, I think it’s more accurate to describe it as like Napoli travelling up the ‘Highway of the Sun’ to play Roma in what is known as the ‘Derby del Sole’, a passionately fought out rivalry named after the road that connects Rome with Naples. Perhaps then, sporting contests between Auckland and Waikato could be quite fittingly dubbed the ‘Derby dell’Uno’ – Derby of the One… It sounds much better in Italian.
My feelings on this rivalry are coloured by my background of growing up in and around Hamilton and my adulthood spent almost exclusively living in Auckland. I feel pretty well placed to write with some authority on perspectives from both sides of the Bombay Hills. Auckland, as the largest city in New Zealand and carrying almost the same population as the rest of the country put together, is dominant both economically and culturally. This breeds both a sense of superiority in Aucklanders and feelings of resentment everywhere else. These two understandable if not rational points of view fuel each other but when their flames burn too bright, can all too often become an inferiority complex in one and an unseemly sense of entitlement in the other. Many Aucklanders think anyone from South of the Bombay Hills is a country hick. Outside of Auckland, Aucklanders are commonly referred to as ‘JAFAs’ – JAFA meaning Just Another F***ing Aucklander.
When a small child in the crowd of a 2001 rugby game between Canterbury and Auckland in Christchurch was seen on TV holding a sign that said “I hate you Auckland”, it shocked some people. They publically asked what led to that level of malice in a child so young, and what of his parents? Do people really hate Auckland that much? Why?
Firstly, let’s not overdo it, the rivalry between Roma and Napoli, for example, is one of the most violent in the world and football games between the two often result in riots and stabbings. Thankfully, New Zealand provincial rivalries are very, very, very, very tame. Secondly, there is fault on both sides. Growing up in Hamilton, my experience with Aucklanders was two-fold. We saw yuppies who passed through on their way to skiing holidays on the snow covered mountains of the central North Island. They would stop in Hamilton, expect the same availability of lattes and croissants in a provincial farming service town as they would get at home and be extremely obnoxious when their demands were not met. The other way we saw Auckland was through the media. Television channels are appropriately based where the population is. When we saw our town on screen, it was usually as the butt of jokes about how we were boring or uncultured.
For our part, we failed to appreciate the diversity of Auckland. It was lost on us that the yuppies both who passed through and appeared on TV were very much in the minority. Auckland is, as just one small example, the biggest Pacific city in the world. There are more Samoans in Auckland than there are in Samoa. It is a melting pot that cannot be simply boxed into one category of ‘smug’ or ‘superior’. It has suburbs that range from those like Otahuhu where a walk around the shopping district at lunchtime is an opportunity to take your pick of almost any Asian or Pacific delicacy known to man, to those like Titirangi, nestled up along a mountain ridge in the middle of native bush that only seems to stop at the doors and windows of the houses and shops. I have learnt so much from my time in the ‘big smoke’. I have learnt tolerance and respect for all walks of life, particularly those most different to me, and I am eternally grateful for it. But there is still one thing I will never develop tolerance or respect for – Auckland sports teams. You see, some things don’t change and after 16 years of living in the land of the JAFA, I still support two teams – Waikato and whoever is playing Auckland.
My best memory of the sporting rivalry between Auckland and Waikato is undoubtedly being at Eden Park in 1993 to watch Waikato end Auckland’s nine year reign as holders of Rugby’s prestigious Ranfurly Shield. Rugby matches between Auckland and Waikato are what I would describe as genuine derbies. Passionate, hard and closely fought encounters with intense crowd atmospheres. In football though, the rivalry is not as strong mainly due to Auckland teams being traditionally superior in quality to Waikato ones through the years. Where Declan Edge’s analogy does ring true is Auckland City are the Barcelona of New Zealand Football, perhaps to Waitakere City’s Real Madrid, Team Wellington’s Valencia and Waikato FC’s Athletic Bilbao.
But today, the minnows gave as good as they got. It did turn out to be a real derby like encounter. Auckland were below their peak and Waikato put in a super gutsy performance, including a saved penalty and several shots cleared off the line by defenders with the goalkeeper beaten. The visitors looked like a team desperate to stick one up the JAFAs. They chased every back pass and competed for every shred of possession like their lives depended on it. By the end of the game, they had thoroughly earned their 0-0 draw and their one point must have felt like 6. Well, it certainly did to me. Well done Waikato! MOOLOO OLE OLE OLE! (That’s country hick speak for FORZA WAIKATO!)
Categories: NZ Men's National League
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/