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Warning: This post may contain traces of sanctimony

Mainland Pride 2, Auckland Football Federation 1
English Park, Christchurch, November 3 2013

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I didn’t expect anything different from normal. Why would I? New Zealand is New Zealand is New Zealand. I know the South Island is not an independent republic, despite popular opinion in some quarters north of Cook Strait (and south of it too for that matter). A game of football in Christchurch should, in theory I thought, be much the same as a game of football in Auckland. Especially considering I have seen both of these two teams play in the last few weeks. As has been known to happen very occasionally however, I was wrong.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The clue is there for all to see – in the name. Mainland Pride. Not Mainland Football Federation, Auckland Football Federation, Waikato Bay of Plenty Football, Central Football, Capital Football, nor Football South. Mainland are unique in giving their National Women’s League team its own identity. Just like a bought one.

The first thing I noticed today that was different, was when I pulled up in my rental car. Right there, by the road, on the sign, underneath the name of the ground, was an advertisement for the game. “Mainland Pride v Auckland 1pm Sunday 3 November”.

The second thing I noticed was when I wandered up to the gate. A trestle table with a person standing next to it – collecting a gate charge. It’s sheer dumb luck that I had some cash on me! (I wasn’t about to pull the “do you know who I am?” trick. I might have been mistaken for Aaron Gilmore and I don’t think my self-esteem could handle a setback like that…)

The third thing I noticed was that they were selling programmes for $2. Professional, glossy, well put together and properly printed programmes.

The fourth thing I noticed was that there were spectators. Real, live, living breathing humans who had paid to get in because they wanted to watch women’s football. About 150 of them, I would estimate, and they were vocal and passionate about the game.

The fifth thing I noticed was there was a ground announcer. He read out the names of the players on the two teams and rarked up the crowd. He announced the goal scorers, and the substitutions, and promoted the next home game.

The sixth thing I noticed was there was half-time entertainment. An organised kids’ game took place on the pitch and the man on the microphone roamed around the crowd talking to random spectators about who they were supporting and asking for their thoughts on the game. As the players came back out for the second half, he interviewed the Mainland coach, canvassing his views on the contest so far, for the benefit of the rest of us.

If you are reading this and wondering to yourself, “what’s he making a big deal out of all this for? It’s all pretty basic stuff you see at lots of sporting events”, the chances are you’ve never been to a women’s football game in the upper North Island before. What blew me away about my first ever South Island game was that, in these parts, one can be forgiven for forming the impression that folks down here have embraced a revolutionary concept – that women footballers should be treated like, you know… footballers.

Now, I can’t bring myself to write about all of this without saying something about the Canterbury earthquakes. This is my first visit to the region since they hit. As you will know if you read my post last week, the main purpose of my trip was to attend the Labour Party Conference. As part of this, I spent a small amount of time out door-knocking for the Christchurch East by-election. This was one of the more sobering experiences of my recent existence. Seeing the damage that still exists to people’s homes and lives, talking to people living in conditions much worse than I had imagined, and most of all seeing the tiredness in their eyes, was something I found quite moving. I felt terrible for imposing myself on them, but, inexplicably, nobody uttered a word of complaint about it.

Back at English Park, a spectator told me that the artificial pitch had suffered a fair bit of damage in the quakes, and was out of use for a year while repair work was carried out.

So here’s my point: If they are so well organised in Christchurch, so well resourced, and delivering such a professional product for women’s football in their region, HERE… Then what the hell is OUR excuse in the north?

The game finished 2-1 to Mainland. It was decided by an own goal by Auckland keeper Rebecca Rolls from a wayward back-pass. That was a pity. But it pales into insignificance compared to what surely are much greater tragedies.

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.

7 replies

  1. Since South Island Womens Football has painted itself in such a positive light, I’m gonna recommnend that in order to maintain that perception you don’t venture even further South! We can only do one out of 6!

  2. You get heaps more people turning up for kids Rugby games. 150 for ASB Pemiership games? That is a start, a low start.

  3. Great article, thank you! For the records, due to our gate system, we counted 250 spectators at ASB Football Park yesterday afternoon.

    1. Thanks for that, I hate it when media underestimate crowds! 🙂

      I did a quick head count from where I was standing behind the goal by the ZM cars as the second half was getting underway. Some people were probably inside and others might have still been waiting for their coffee – which was excellent too by the way, I knew I forgot to mention something!

  4. I actually enjoy women’s football more than men’s for a bunch of reasons because they try to do more things on the ball and are more humble. It was a good game on Sunday and could have gone either way. I was impressed by the Aucks staying on the pitch rather dashing off. The CP team is very young, my sons partner at 25 is by far the older of the team (he is the Coach by the way) but women’s football world wide is the fastest growing ladies sport.The US is the best in the World yet NZ managed a draw with them. Great opportunities for these young ladies to get into sports scholarships at US colleges to further education and life experience.

    1. I agree! I don’t think I have ever seen a dive in women’s football. I’ve never seen a player abuse a ref. The football is almost always attacking and interesting to watch. I’d still rather watch AS Roma, but a good women’s game is a close second! 🙂

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