Glen Eden United 0, Drury United 4
Parrs Park, Auckland, April 25 2013
It’s ANZAC Day in New Zealand and Australia, the anniversary of the Allied landing at Gallipoli where so many of our countrymen and women lost their lives in World War I. Today, we remember those brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives in warzones around the world. And we watch football. Because getting up at sparrow’s fart and attending a dawn service is wonderful, but we do our fallen soldiers no honour whatsoever if we spend the whole of their day simply moping around. We remember them, and we use the freedom they fought for to have fun with. That’s why it is fitting that ANZAC Day also happens to be the day of the qualification round of New Zealand’s premier club competition, the Chatham Cup, a tournament that started 90 years ago, between the World Wars, in 1923.
Like most football cups around the globe, the Chatham Cup is open to all and sundry. Everyone from the Westlake Boys High School first XI through to the Northern League champions throw their lot in and give it a crack. This year there are 132 entries from Kerikeri at the top of the North Island to Southend United at the bottom of the South.
With 16 fixtures in the northern section to choose from today, I decided to opt for the closest to home.
Glen Eden is my suburb and although this game was played on the artificial pitch at Parrs Park, Glen Eden’s very modest club facilities are just up the road from my house in the opposite direction to Oratia United. Like most tiny New Zealand clubs, the smell of an oily rag would be luxurious riches the likes of which they can scarcely imagine and, for good measure, they have faced an extra dollop of adversity in recent times, their clubrooms having been destroyed by arsonists a few years ago. They have two teams that both play at the same level, the highest the club is represented at – the Northern Football Federation Over 35s Second Division. There, their two teams currently sit both second to last and last on the table after three games apiece.
I don’t know a lot about Drury United apart from the fact that they are from deepest South Auckland and the highest point in the pyramid they currently operate at is in the Auckland Football Federation Second Division, effectively the seventh tier of New Zealand Football’s winter club structure.
So it was clear that this was not exactly the Champions League I was signing up for here. It’s much cooler than that. It doesn’t matter what level the teams you watch play at, they grow both in stature and guts for the Chatham Cup. The competition is famous for upsets and giant killing runs and there will be numerous examples every round. The only problem is you never know where the lightning is going to strike – it’s entirely down to luck. Last year I saw a cracker when Manukau City beat Papatoetoe on penalties. Unfortunately this game wasn’t quite the place to be this time.
Glen Eden fought valiantly and never gave up as they might have been entitled to do once the game started to get away from them a bit midway through the first half. The pride they showed in their club is what the Chatham Cup is all about. They should hold their heads high and count themselves in excellent company as they only lost by the same amount Barcelona did this week!
But the reality is, Drury missed several sitters in the first half and their 3-0 lead at the break could easily have been double that. They also seemed to take their foot off the accelerator pedal after their fourth midway through the second spell.
It was still a great afternoon out though, despite the second half downpour that sent the Glen Eden reserves scurrying into their van. They never had that luxury in the trenches of Gallipoli!! I pride myself on the fact that in true ANZAC spirit, I stuck a plastic bag over my camera and soldiered on. Stiff upper lip old bean, and all that sort of thing. Viva the Chatham Cup! And lest we forget.
Categories: NZ Chatham Cup
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/