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The generation game

North Shore United 0, Eastern Suburbs 2
Allen Hill Stadium, Auckland, April 19 2014

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I have my older brother Nando to thank for my love of football. When I was a kid he introduced me to it in two ways. The first was through his love of the Italian National Team at major tournaments, something which he has well and truly passed on to me. I have strangely fond memories of the abject misery of lying on the floor of his lounge in Milford, in agony, after Italy lost the final of USA 94 on penalties. The other way he educated me on the beautiful game was by taking me to Allen Hill Stadium in Devonport to watch his favourite local team, North Shore United, play in the old National league in the days they boasted a fair chunk of the country’s stars of the time.

I didn’t inherit Nando’s fondness for North Shore the way I did gli Azzurri – preferring Waikato United instead, my local team at the time, but I did immediately grasp how inherently cool local New Zealand football was and in many ways still is. Though the North Shore United side of the present is barely recognisable from those halcyon days, and Allen Hill is looking a bit unkempt and unloved now, the basic premise is still there. It’s about rustic charm and the sense of roughing it a little bit. It is to watching Barcelona what sleeping under the stars is to a room at the Hilton.

Standing behind the goal at Allen Hill, watching the likes of Mark Cossey and Darren Fellowes go head to head with Wynton Rufer and Harry Ngata is one of those formative experiences without which I wouldn’t be writing this blog. It was quite cool, therefore, that I was back there today and so was Nando, I believe for the first time since the demise of the old National League – and he had with him the next generation of football lovers to pass the bug onto. Haru and Michi, both of whom love playing the game, very much enjoyed their first game of adult football today, which was a lovely thing to be a part of.

I haven’t seen Haru play for her team yet (it’s on my list), but from what I have been told she’s a brilliant defender so remember you heard of her here first when she’s a famous mainstay of the Football Fern back four! Michi is a striker, who I’m also told is very good and loves banging them in with ruthless efficiency! Two great skill sets that United could have used to great effect today… Sadly for this trio of North Shore United lovers however, they didn’t get to witness a vintage performance from the team they had come to see.

I asked Haru at half time, with the score still at 0-0, which side was better. After careful consideration she said “the white team”. I had to agree with her. It was a bit of a slugfest but Eastern Suburbs were certainly looking a bit more assured, and their keeper was barely troubled all game truth be told, apart from one potshot late in the second half which ricocheted off the top right hand corner of the goal. Suburbs were a bit more dangerous on attack, and although it wasn’t exactly champagne football from them either, their two goal advantage taken in the second half thanks to shots from Harry Redwood and Nik Robson, constituted a fair result.

With that victory, Suburbs top the table and look good for promotion back up to the premier division. North Shore on the other hand find themselves at the wrong end of the ladder, fighting hard to avoid another demoralising trip down to the third tier. They should be ok, given only one team goes down this year, but regardless this is not where this club is used to being. If they’re looking for reinforcements up front to help shore up their attack, Michi has a killer left foot! Just kidding of course, but definitely in a couple of years…

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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