[This post was originally published in the match day programme at Ellerslie AFC vs Manurewa on April 13 2013]
Around the world and particularly in the United Kingdom there is an ever growing fad around ‘lower league football’. It appears to me to have kicked off in the mid-nineties with the publication of Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby’s famous literary masterpiece. Even though the book is primarily about his life as an Arsenal supporter, during the finest passages he writes with wonderfully evocative romanticism about the cosy misery of following Cambridge United through one of the longest losing streaks in league history.
The English seemed to identify with this greatly. Go figure.
The timing couldn’t have been better. As Fever Pitch was selling like hotcakes, blogs were in the process of springing into life as the first in a burgeoning internet phenomenon that we now know as social media. Today, there are more football blogs than I’ve had hot dinners and the vast bulk of them are focussed on so-called lower leagues, which with all due modesty New Zealand club football could be classed as.
However while this explains the popularity of football blogs in the UK, how is it that in a rugby mad country like Aotearoa, there aren’t really any rugby blogs to speak of, while in recent times several excellent sites dedicated to football have sprouted up?
There has always been Jeremy Ruane’s brilliantly rich and colourful www.ultimatenzsoccer.com of course, but a couple of years ago it was joined by www.aseasonofsaturdays.blogspot.co.nz – a blog dedicated to Wainuiomata FC in the Capital Premier League and my own blog www.in-the-back-of-the.net. We also have Maurice Tillotson’s Cerebral Soccer, a fascinating take on the philosophy of football at www.uspiel.com and now just in the last couple of months Dwayne Barlow has started www.thematamatabus.com and Mike Fitzpatrick has brought us www.nzfootballclubteamrankings.blogspot.co.nz.
Football is perhaps more suited to blogging than other sports because it is romantic and accessible. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand it, it’s cheap or free to attend, it’s popular with a worldwide potential audience in the billions and it invokes passion like no other sport on earth.
But in New Zealand there is something even more important going for it – the fact that our media almost completely ignores it. While one assumes the rugby community feels fairly well served by what they are spoon fed, for us enlightened few who follow the round ball code in this football desert, we have no choice but to cover it ourselves.
Most historians will tell you that the printing press is right up there with the wheel amongst the inventions that have changed civilisation more than any others. Now print is in its death throes and electronic media is taking over. We no longer have to miss out on watching let alone reading about our obscure yet beloved teams playing on the other side of the world.
The internet may not yet have changed the world to the same extent the printing press did, but it has significantly changed the way we enjoy football.
Not a moment too soon.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.