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Mount Maunganui by the sea

Waikato Bay of Plenty 1, Auckland Football Federation 4
Links Avenue, Mount Maunganui, December 2 2012

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In Maori culture, the relationship to land is completely different from that of Europeans. They don’t own land, the land owns them. Football fans should be able to identify with this. I certainly feel that way about the teams I support, I couldn’t stop loving them if I wanted to because they own me.

This is one of the examples I use in my head to explain my at times irrational behaviour when it comes to football. It helps me to come to terms with my otherwise inexcusable bad moods after bad losses. I have no choice. I can’t be held responsible for my actions. If you have a problem with the fact that I’m only capable of communicating in barely audible grunts right now, don’t hassle me about it, take it up with my football team. Go and tell THEM to snap out of it, goodness knows I wish they would…

One of the many other things I quite like about Maoritanga is everyone has a mountain that they belong to. When they introduce themselves by quoting their whakapapa, which is the story of where they come from, one of the first parts is always to tell you which is their mountain.

For many Ngati Awa, the local tribe of the Bay of Plenty, their mountain is Mount Maunganui. Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean at the entrance of Tauranga harbour with a long golden sand beach stretching away from its southern foot,  it’s easy to see why ‘the mount’ is so important to both the local Iwi and summer holiday makers alike.

There couldn’t be a more fitting venue then, than this great maunga’s shadow, for this great sudden death final pool play match in the National Women’s League. Winner gets a semi-final in Christchurch against Mainland Pride. Loser gets their Christmas break two weeks early.

Sadly for the local team, it was the ladies from the ‘Big Smoke’ who turned up looking the sharpest. Coming to the end of the regular season with the fewest key injuries was perhaps the deciding factor. Particularly sorely missed was WaiBOP’s star goalkeeper Naomi-Beth Carter who had picked up a stress fracture two weeks earlier against the Under 17s. Papamoa’s Megan Anderson filled in valiantly but I have to say she looked a bit out of her depth in the midst of several of Auckland’s goals. At the other end, Football Fern Erin Nayler pulled off several spectacular saves and that I think was the key difference between the two sides.

Helen Collins worked tirelessly for the locals and created several good chances for WaiBOP, but alas none of them found the back of the net. Meanwhile, Auckland struck both immediately before and immediately after halftime to make the game an uphill struggle for their opponents. Waikato briefly looked like a comeback was on the cards when they grabbed one back to make it 2-1 with about 20 minutes remaining in the match. But Auckland hit straight back to kill the game and break local hearts.

I shouldn’t be upset. It’s a development league after all. It really doesn’t matter who is crowned the champions. Yet I’m still in a grumpy mood. There’s no valid reason for it really apart from the fact I hate any Waikato team losing to an Auckland one. I suppose it would have been great to see my team at least in with a chance of a rematch of last year’s final, a game they lost to Northern. But the way WaiBOP have been going, even if they’d scraped a result yesterday, they had very little chance of being the ones to lift the trophy.

So it wasn’t to be and now all that’s left is for my father-in-law to sing out WaiBOP’s season. George came along to the game with us and had a great time, passionately cheering on the locals at the top of his lungs. He’s not really a football man, like most New Zealanders preferring rugby, but he was right into this game regardless – because he belongs to Mount Maunganui.

Categories: NZ Women'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.

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