Auckland United Youth 3, Waitakere United Youth 1
Centre Park, Auckland, January 12 2014
Auckland has had a City playing in blue for almost a decade, and as of today, looking every bit the part in their red shirts and black shorts, it now also has a United to complete the set. Auckland United took to the field for their first ever competitive fixture this afternoon at Centre Park in Mangere, representing South and East Auckland with aplomb in the ASB Youth League, against what is arguably the Liverpool of New Zealand’s national football scene.
The most striking thing about this new outfit, when you glance at the names of the players and the faces grinning out at you from the pen portraits in the match-day programme, is it’s truly representative of its local community. No obvious ring-ins jump out at you. This is a club with a real commitment to doing its region proud with home-grown talent and a commitment to diversity. But it goes even further than that too. Club stalwart Iliyas Daud wrote in his column in the programme about a grand vision for a club that wants to “unite our children through football and leave the place much better for generations to come, a place where discrimination is as obsolete as slavery is now.” Swoon! If nothing else, they sure know the way to my pasty white liberal heart!
It is obvious for all to see that this is viewed very much as a stepping stone by those running the show here. They see today’s debut in national league football as a mere mid-point in a long journey to the highest level. Impress here, and the assumption is that the powers that be of New Zealand Football will be unable to refuse a fully-fledged ASB Premiership franchise. So far, so good. If today was anything to go by they looked well organised, slick and professional off the pitch. And who could argue with the result on it?
It was all a bit meh to begin with. Waitakere dominated possession while Auckland gave away too much too easily, but despite this the visitors didn’t really do much with it, save a couple of set pieces competently dealt with by the reds’ keeper. The locals got more into their work as the first half wore on though, one shot was unlucky not to cross the line after a fumble, and another close range effort that should have found the back of the net, was instead bludgeoned straight into the keeper’s arms. The net result a 0-0 half time score.
After all that, as the second half started it was difficult to predict what the final outcome might be, but it soon became clear. From about 15 minutes in until about 15 minutes after that it was all over rover starting with the first ever goal in Auckland United franchise history, scored by Altaaf Sahib. Their lead was then doubled very soon after by a player who would be my stand-out performer of the game if I had to name one – Solomon Islander Alex Waimora. His incisive runs up front were at the root of many of the problems the Waitak defence faced, despite his apparent lack of fitness – when he wasn’t running with the ball he looked like he was sucking in a lot of air! Then the final nail in the coffin came via a second for Sahib. Despite some promising forays into the opposition third, a consolation penalty was all she wrote for Waitak, converted by Antony Cibilich.
This result capped off an historically bad day for Waitakere teams. I can’t bring myself to close off this post without mentioning their shock ASB Premiership defeat earlier in the day to a Southern United side who were 16-1 long-shots, down to ten men, and boasting a goalkeeper playing centre back because of how short-staffed they were. Perhaps the footballing power in the City of Sails is shifting South? As the most overused cliché in sports writing history says, only time will tell.
Categories: NZ Men's National Youth League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.