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Southside FC

Mangere’s Centre Park

The New Zealand Herald recently published an article suggesting that expansion of the New Zealand Football Championship could be on the near horizon. If not in time for this season coming, perhaps by 2013/14, South Auckland and Nelson look set to be the most likely locations for two new franchises. This is the best local football news I have heard in years, particularly in light of a recent online discussion on the location of a third Auckland team that got me quite riled up. Many from the North Shore felt that as they are such a strong football area, they should be rewarded with a franchise of their own ahead of anywhere else.

Auckland is a town of haves and have-nots in football as in many other aspects of life. The financially affluent and predominantly white North Shore has seven clubs in the NRFL, all but two in division 1. Low income multi ethnic South Auckland, with its vastly larger population base, also has 7, mostly poorly resourced clubs and all but two are in division 2. It’s tempting to send a new franchise to where the game is stronger and the amenities are more comfortable. But that to me would be a terrible waste when instead of the conservative approach of consolidating the game, we could be building and growing the sport amongst new communities outside New Zealand football’s traditional white middle class support.

If we can get football pumping in South Auckland, the implications for the game from club level to the All Whites is massive. Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world and with a bit of Pacific uniqueness to our play, utilising the strength and flair that Samoans, Tongans and Fijians bring to rugby, by luring them away from the national game we could transform football for the better.

A handful of diehard supporters get very passionate about their clubs and franchises, treating them as though winning the Northern League or the NZFC is as important as if it was the English Premier League. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that support for our game in this country is miniscule and players who are good enough to represent our country at World Cup level almost all ply their trade overseas. Our local clubs and franchises must have bigger priorities than being the biggest fish in their tiny puddles. As Dwayne Barlow so eloquently pointed out recently, the be-all and end-all of our local game should be the development of players in terms of both the quality and size of the talent pool, and to have at least two clubs capable of winning the Oceania Champions League every season. I encourage you to read Dwayne’s article, it fleshes those points out very well.

The potential in South Auckland is huge. The Polynesian community is grossly underrepresented in football and it’s partly because there is little about the structure of the game that appeals to them. We remain stuck in England mode. Stuffy and gloomy, the style of play is uninspiring and names like Waitakere United and Auckland City FC are as uncool as they are vanilla.

Marketing will be the key to success of any new venture. This is what the Kansas City Wizards discovered when they transformed their dull, sterile and poorly supported club into one of the most vibrant atmospheres in MLS. They changed their name, culture and identity to a more continental European inspired approach. The newly branded ‘Sporting Kansas City’ improved their supporter base out of sight overnight. I’m not advocating a European style here, but a uniquely Polynesian one. A name like ‘Southside FC’ and a logo that will look good on a baseball cap would be a great start. The club could be promoted by running football clinics in schools with free tickets and rap music.

Centre Park in Mangere was mentioned by the Herald as a likely home ground, an excellent choice. Close to the South Western Motorway it features good parking, covered seating and a nice atmosphere with spectators able to sit close to the pitch. Along with Kiwitea Street and Napier’s Park Island it would easily qualify as one of the three best NZFC venues in the country. With former New Zealand Football CEO Noel Robinson at the helm, the franchise will have an experienced and safe pair of hands to get the ball rolling.

This is an opportunity New Zealand Football should be taking with both hands.

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

13 replies

  1. Enzo, great article and I couldn’t agree more with the bulk of the issues raised. However, you’ve overlooked one major issue, playing staff. Having been in and around the South Auckland/Franklin seen for some time, those that are currently underrepresented in the NZFC aren’t prominent in the local lotto nrfl leagues, so where exactly is the playing staff going to come from? That’s right…….those that have recently been booted out of the other two Auckland clubs . The new franchise wouldn’t create any opportunity whatsoever for those that you want to support the new venture.
    Furthermore, why can’t we have two new entrants in Auckland? The population and playing base is constantly expanding. Hibiscus Coast and North Shore have just battled through a tough Div 2 campaign to get promoted, Dont those north of the bridge deserve a shit at NZFC football?

  2. I think the broader strategy behind the rationale for a South Auckland team would take more than a couple of seasons to be realised. The idea is it would attract new people to the game but in the meantime, yes, the squad would have to be made up of players from across the whole city and perhaps beyond. There should be enough depth. I think a fourth Auckland franchise would be pushing it though. Places like Nelson have a strong claim too and I wouldn’t want to see the talent stretched too thin. We still want two strong teams capable of winning the O League every year to bring home the cash from the Club World Cup..

    1. Thanks Enzo. Finally someone shares the same sentiments as I do. For the bigger benefit of NZF I feel hat we need to introduce more Pacific Islanders into the game. We need to tap into the more physically imposing athletes of this background and teach them the finer aspects of Football through the academies in South Auckland that will provide players for this new franchise. At the moment Football is not an incentive to give up Rugby for these kids. We need more Cahills, Rufers and someone like Benji Marshall or SBW coming from the football academies of South Auckland into the national team.

      Iliyas Daud.

    1. Hi Mark! Yeah, it’s a matter of personal taste I guess. I don’t like big venues for football. A few hundred spectators rattling around in a stadium built for 20,000 doesn’t do it for me. Although for rugby I’m sure Forsyth Barr is wonderful. I’d love to check it out some day when it’s full. Charisbrook while Ken Rutherford was batting in an ODI is a hard act to follow though!

  3. The player base may not be there right now but why not try and bring some of the better Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island and Fijian players that are not already in the NZFC or Fiji’s top clubs to the area from the islands. It would help the islands national teams, South Auckland and New Zealand Football in general ala Roy Krishna and Benjamin Totiri.

    WIn Win Win

  4. Interesting article
    a few points though, English Park in Christchurch would have to be one of the better venues in NZFC apart from the awful pitch!!
    And not sure on the name Southside FC!!
    Surely a team name should tell you where a club is from??
    South Auckland FC maybe
    And you made no mention of player depth other than the fact 5 of the teams from that region are in Div2
    But you are right about Centre Park great facility with pleny of parking and easy acces to motorway and airport

    1. Hi Phil, thanks for your comment.

      A team name doesn’t have to tell you where the team is from. There are some wonderful examples of successful team names that don’t. Juventus, Internazionale (Inter), Sporting Clube de Portugal, Chivas, Arsenal. I’m not wedded to the name Southside but it needs to be something that doesn’t necessarily appeal to me and my demographic so I’m probably not the best person to choose it! 🙂

      Good point about player depth and it’s great that that point has been fleshed out a bit more in the comments. I agree with Martin that it would be great to bring some of the stronger players in from the other Oceania nations. Poaching them off the Island clubs would not only be good for the franchise, it would make the O-League easier to win for the Kiwi teams!

  5. Perhaps the lure of a “South Auckland” national league team will bring many of the former Counties Manukau players back to their local clubs. There are many who grew up and learned their trade out south but have moved to clubs in the Auckland area hoping to find better opportunities. So to have that next step available closer to home may bring those players back to their original clubs and we will see more of those clubs moving up the leagues and giving a better perspective on where the talent pool really is.
    I would like to see the return of the Manukau Allstars – they were a team made up of the best from the area over a few different age groups, they wore black, red and white and used to enter the Manukau Cup back in the day.

  6. Great article, I’m really keen to have a 10 team league and a longer season. Kiwitea Street and Centre Park are actually very close, but the cultures are vastly different. Hopefully there are a few players from the Fiji national team to help connect with the public (when Fiji visits in the O-League there are great crowds).

    Nothing wrong with the name Auckland City FC, but there are too many teams called United – four out of the current eight teams. Not sure what the South Auckland team should be called. South Auckland Rovers?

    Looking forward to Auckland City vs South Auckland at Centre Park. Even closer to the game as I live in Pukekohe, Will be there as an away supporter of course.

  7. Phil.
    Nothing wrong with the pitch at ASB Park in Christchurch, the best surface in the ASB premiership.
    When did you play on it last?
    ASB Prem needs to have 10 teams and be played over four rounds giving a 36 week season and no playoff crap. Start season at end of Sept and run to end of May.

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