Wellington Phoenix 2, Adelaide United 1
Eden Park, Auckland, February 1 2014
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.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.