[Welcome to ‘I Love This Club’, a series of guest posts on in-the-back-of-the.net exploring what makes grassroots New Zealand football people tick, through sharing their stories about why they love their clubs. If you would like to contribute to this series by writing about your special club, please e-mail me via casagiordani at orcon dot net dot nz. Previous episodes in the series can be found here.]
By Ben McNabb
When Enzo asked me to write something about my football club, Coastal Spirit, I jumped at the chance. I saw the opportunity to highlight why I love my club as justification as to why I spend a great deal of time with and around it. I started writing and once I had completed, I looked back and it looked like a long bunch of words, and to me, it simply didn’t do it justice. Then flicking back through my photos, I found this one that speaks a thousand words. So I thought it would be better to expand on this.
This was the day our Men’s team qualified for the Mainland Premier League, which incorporates the best teams in the top half of the South Island. To me it was one of the greatest games of football I have experienced live, right up there with the All Whites beating Bahrain in 2009. It had everything that you can experience in life; drama, elation, disappointment, but in the end, success.
This photo shows the last day a game was played at Eric Adam Park, the home of one of our two founding clubs Rangers AFC. Bexley Reserve, the home ground of New Brighton AFC who merged with Rangers to become Coastal Spirit, was devastated by the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes and hasn’t been seen since. A million dollar asset with a bar and full size indoor stadium is sorely missed. Our two merged entities have around 150 years of history between them, and it is often reflected on and mentioned.
Since our merge in 2007, we had desperately been trying to get promoted to the Premier League. We had come extremely close before, however this was the day we had finally done it. Despite losing the first leg to Richmond AFC from Nelson 4-2, we managed to score 3 goals in the final 20 minutes at home to take the playoff 5-4. This photo shows that elation of the sideline as we had completed what many thought was impossible.
Of course the Men’s side of the club doesn’t come anywhere near our Women’s section. New Brighton AFC had a great history of winning the local leagues and cups, however since our merge we have gone on to much greater heights. As well as winning the local leagues and cups a number of times in the past few years, our crowning glory was last year when we won the ASB NZ Women’s Knockout Cup. Despite taking the final by a flukey own goal, it was a great achievement for the women and our club. The regional and national representatives that have come out of this team is also another major feather in our cap, with having Whitney Hepburn making the NZ U17 team, Laura Merrin, Lauren Dabner, Belinda van Noorden, Meikayla Moore and Lily Alfeld in the NZ U20 squad and two making their debuts this year in the full NZ team, adding to the long list of New Zealand representatives over the past 6 years.
That photo also shows something else I love about my club; the people. Coastal Spirit has a wide range of people that contribute to its make-up, from the youngest of 3 years to the seniors nearing 60, to our multiculturalism, to both genders, to people from all different walks of life. I love the fact of being able to associate with a bunch of people I would never have met before however we have the same love of chasing a round ball on a pitch. The friendships and camaraderie that occur throughout the year makes our club truly special. Hence why my weekend is such a pleasurable one as I get to spend it with people I like to hang out with; my family, my friends and my team-mates. From my children’s games on Saturday morning, to the Women’s Premier League early afternoon, then on to the Men’s Premier League late afternoon, before relaxing in the clubrooms afterwards chatting with friends about the game. Then I even get a game in my successful Sunday League team the next day which always serves as a reminder of my fitness and the previous day’s events.
While I am proud of the success of both our Premier Men’s and Women’s teams, the junior club and involvement in community events are equally as important. It is great to see the Premier Men’s and Women’s teams supporting coaching roles within the club, attending football festivals and Junior Club days. I am excited to see the talent rising through the junior grades and we as a club are over-represented in age group Canterbury, FTC and NTC players and coaches. Our Football Development Manager, goal-scorer extraordinaire Gareth Turnbull, has created our own Player Development Pathway and a football curriculum. We run Futsal teams, 5 a-side leagues, Football in Schools programmes, the Lotto U19 Football Tournament, Holiday Programmes and send teams to compete in Australian Tournaments. All of these programmes keep us very busy and despite all of the ups and downs (and shaky ground) that the club has faced over the past 7 years, we have continued to not only survive but thrive! The only reason Coastal Spirit FC is the club that it is, is excellent people that work hard but play hard also.
Another reason I love my club, and something that doesn’t really come through in my much mentioned photograph, is the work I have done as part of the Board. We are a group of dedicated people who aim to make our club enjoyable, financial, successful and sustainable. Each has their own role to play, and I enjoy mine in running communications such as Facebook, Twitter and our website, as well as organising fun events such as our 5 a side and now infamous Coastal Idol. I really enjoy this part of my life, although it can make things busy, I like being able to provide different social events for our members.
So there you go, a whole heap of reasons why I love my club. Pretty difficult to put into words, I suppose because all of these things I have mentioned have really just come about through time, and it’s also something I wouldn’t do if I didn’t love my club. I am sure there are many similar stories that others could mention about their own club, and I look forward to reading these on this blog.
Thanks to Enzo for the opportunity and this fantastic website.
[To play for, get involved with, or find out more about Coastal Spirit, e-mail gareth at coastalspirit dot co dot nz, maia at coastalspirit dot co dot nz, visit www.coastalspirit.co.nz, follow them via www.twitter.com/CoastalSpiritNZ or like them at www.facebook.com/coastalspirit!]
Categories: I Love This Club
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.