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The fortress of Eden

Wellington Phoenix 2, Adelaide United 1
Eden Park, Auckland, February 1 2014

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18,056. Not too shabby, Auckland! It sure is great to be able to put one over those whiny Wellingtonians who are always carping on about how we can’t get a decent football crowd in the City of Sails. That crowd figure will certainly have wiped the smiles off their faces, and made them a teeeensy weeeensy little bit nervous about the future, given their own average attendance down in the capital has not been that much to crow about lately. So well done JAFAs, but don’t get too ahead of yourselves. You might think this means that if you can do it once, you can do it week-in-week-out, but I remain highly sceptical of that. 18,056 in 2014, 11,566 in 2013 and 20,078 in November 2011 – not bad at all. But I needn’t remind you of the New Zealand Knights average attendances, 3,009 in 2006/07 and 3,989 in 2005/06. Mmmmmmmmmm. Yeah.

The truth is, novelties are nice and I either bumped into or saw Facebook photos of a lot of people I know at the game yesterday who I had no idea possessed the slightest interest in football. Great to see them coming to check out something different, but would they come week-in-week-out? I highly doubt it. No, we had our chance with an A-League franchise and we blew it. If there is ever another license to be handed out to a New Zealand outfit, and there are a lot of political reasons why that’s unlikely, one would have to think we have blotted our copybooks far too much up here to expect two good crowds in three years to in any way buy us off of the naughty step. Christchurch must surely be well ahead of us in the pecking order.

But as a one-off, these Phoenix sojourns into the Republic of Proper Coffee are always great occasions. Say what you like about Eden Park, and I have said plenty on one or two occasions, it’s not the dog some people insist it is. The distance from the pitch is better than the Cake Tin and, when it’s full, its enclosed square shape generates a good full atmosphere.

And if there was no financial reason to keep coming back up here once a year, here’s an alternative argument in favour – The Phoenix are unbeaten at Eden Park. A 1-1 draw against the same opposition as today back on 2011 is the team’s worst result here and it was great to see last year’s 1-0 dispatch of the Perth Glory followed up this year with a comfortable victory that, despite the consolation goal, never looked in doubt.

Rather than write much more about the game though, a pointless exercise considering there are oodles of other places you can find blow-by-blow accounts in the realms of professional football, I will simply present you with my photos of the day now as my ‘essay’ on the game. I did something a little bit different this time. I went to the pub on the way, walked from Kingsland down to the stadium with the fans, went straight to my seat, and didn’t leave it until the full time whistle. When I take my camera to Phoenix games I usually move around and try to get close-ups of Yellow Fever etc. But yesterday I decided (partly because I was seated in the middle of a row) rather to document the game-day experience of an ordinary fan. So here it is.

Categories: A-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.

5 replies

  1. As someone who would go to every game if an A League franchise was located up here in Auckland, and as someone who went and enjoyed the game yesterday, I completely agree with you about Auckland not warranting a franchise. I went to the game with two friends who would never go regularly, and who only went for the novelty of the one off fixture. And I know that is a tiny cross section of the crowd but I would be surprised if even a third of those there would attend regularly in Auckland.

    A major problem in my opinion when discussing professional football in Auckland is the stadium. Eden Park (contrary to popular opinion) is in my opinion fantastic. I love going to watch sport there and aside from the price of the food and drink, I would recommend it for any sporting event. However realistically you couldn’t have regular football there because you would never get regular crowds like the one yesterday. Even if you could average 10,000 a match the stadium would feel empty and any atmosphere would probably be lost.

    North Harbour Stadium to me seems out of the question too. It’s good if you have a car and can drive straight to it but for anyone who travels by public transport the bus is the only option, which would be annoying if you were coming from South (which I imagine a fair few fans would). Really you are isolating a good majority of the fan base if you have it over there.

    Mt. Smart Stadium would be my preferred option if something were to ever happen, it is almost the right size, fill it up and it can feel electric, but we have tried that before, and if memory serves me correctly it didn’t really work! Now who knows how it would pan out with the new attitude towards football in this country but I still don’t think it is viable.

    If a decent team could drum up good, consistent support and regularly get 10-15,000 into Mt. Smart I would be ecstatic, but I don’t think it is ever going to happen. Our best bet for decent professional football here in New Zealand is to double down on Wellington and really try and establish a good team that can build of the great work that has already been done there, perhaps by building a 10,000 seat football only ground?

    Sorry for the wall of text! I’ve had these opinions in my head for months and I needed to get them out somewhere.

    P.S. Great pictures Enzo!

    1. Thanks for the excellent comment John, I agree with every word! Just on stadia, I think Mt Smart is as good as lost to speedway now and Albany is a real dog. Eden Park is too big. The country is desperately short of 10-15,000 seat stadiums that would best suit football. We build too many things that try to be too much to too many people so we end up with facilities that aren’t perfect for anything.

  2. I think your completely wrong John C your thinking negatively. Imagine what a NZ derby in the A league would do for football in NZ. Football is massive in Auckland and with our imigration policy can only get bigger.We could easily match what the phoenix get if not more. They would have learnt their lessons from the kings days and Wellington are a great roll model as well. The A league aslo has to get bigger, its a bit of a boring league although the football is improving and some exciting games, The Sydney Derby is massive and up there with one of the most passionate, there is no real pressure of religation, the league has to grow, they need more teams. Scrap the shit NZ league, mix the best from the Auckland side and the Waitaks and the best from the other teams add a few pacific Island players (believe me they have some skill, they just need to be nurched.), add an Ausy or two with a few foreign imports and hay presto, you have an Auckland side. When Riera was at Auckland I reckon they could have matched at least the old phoenix side. Mt Smart would be fine but with the proposed stadium changes will put pay to that but the phoenix do ok in the cake tin so Eden park will do for now. North Harbour is just to far away but size wise would be ideal.I am sure they could think of something. For football to grow in NZ Auckland need s a team, sorry they do.

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