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The silver lining

Claudelands Rovers 3, Matamata Swifts 1
Galloway Park, Hamilton, September 2 2012

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If you have read my last post you will know that like a Muppet I travelled all the way to Hamilton last weekend to watch Claudelands Rovers lift the Women’s Northern Premier League trophy only to discover that I’d got the time horribly wrong. All was not lost however, because at the time I thought that game was due to start, another game was kicking off instead.

I have been wanting to cover a junior game for quite some time. What has stopped me is the feeling of self-consciousness that comes with being some creepy looking stranger turning up to kids sport with a camera… But on this occasion I was in possession of a completely reasonable excuse and I was determined to make my trip down the line something other than a complete waste of time. So here we have it, a Waikato/Bay of Plenty Football Federation Under 15 Boys clash between Claudelands A and Matamata.

Don’t believe the surveys that only count people aged 16 and over, football is the most played team sport in New Zealand and the reason for that is because of its immense popularity at the junior levels where parents are much happier to see their little sweethearts running around in relative safety before they are old enough to get dinged up on the rugby paddock. Kids who then subsequently decide to stay in the beautiful game well into their teens need all the support and encouragement we can give them. To state the blindingly obvious, they are the future of our game.

I don’t have kids myself but I have managed to see bits and pieces of games of this sort of level finishing off before senior matches have started. I am always impressed. The football is very enjoyable. The exuberance of youth makes for fast, energetic and action packed games characterised by great stamina and the ability to do things on the pitch that by the time you turn 20 you just can’t manage anymore either because you physically can’t or you are far too sensible to risk it.

With this age I also really love observing the quite pronounced variances in size. At 14, 15, some kids are almost fully grown while others are still very, very small by comparison. This shines a real spotlight on the way that football at all levels is, or at least should be, a game for all shapes and sizes. The smaller zippier kids are just as useful on the pitch as the bigger more powerful ones.

In this particular match, Claudelands were clearly the better of the two sides but they were frustrated in the first half by the Matamata goalkeeper who pulled off some fantastic acrobatic saves. It looked for a while like his heroics would result in the Swifts nicking a half time lead as they enjoyed a briefly sustained period of attack, but like their opponents they couldn’t quite find the back of the net. Claudelands came out with a renewed sense of purpose in the second half and two goals in relatively quick succession for all intents and purposes secured the game.

The thing I love most about this level is the real sense of fun you get from the kids. I feel it lifting my spirits in a way that completely erases the sort of total frustration that comes from missing a Women’s Premier game I had been looking forward to for weeks. You see kids in possession or trying to get the ball off an opponent and they are so often grinning from ear to ear.

You often see and hear parents on the side lines yelling and screaming and generally embarrassing themselves – confusing their offspring who should only be listening to the coach. I wish they could take a chill pill and just look at the smiles on their kids’ faces. They might find themselves enjoying their lives a lot more.

Categories: Other Football Topics

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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.

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