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Bucklands Beach AFC 4, Te Kuiti Albion 2
Rogers Park, Auckland, April 21 2014

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Here we go again! Chatham Cup 2014 is underway and you know what that means. Obscure little football grounds (even more obscure than my usual haunts) in little enclaves of the country that the eyes of the football world have never fallen upon, and probably never will. Yet we are all poorer for that fact. Effective pub teams, coming up against semi-pros and not only revelling in the challenge but meeting it head on and often causing upsets that become the stuff of legends that the players involved will be boring their grandchildren into a stupor with decades later. The Chatham Cup, like all cup competitions the world over, is all about romance. It’s about the Manchester Uniteds travelling to Ramsbottom Rovers and playing in a ground that only holds 50 people and is used to graze cattle on during the week. (Yes, I made that name up but I’m betting there probably is a Ramsbottom Rovers somewhere in the UK)

With Easter Monday marking the preliminary round of the Chatham Cup, there were no Northern League teams today, let alone Manchester Uniteds, so all the teams on show were a certain degree of lowly. The game I decided to head off to however was about as close as was on offer to Man U versus the mighty Rambums (they might exist). East Auckland’s Bucklands Beach AFC was a club I was quite keen to visit, mainly for the strictly technical footballing reason that I looked them up on Google Maps and their ground looked like it might be quite pretty. They play in the AFF Men’s division 1, so the league just below the Conference, where they currently sit third after two games. Te Kuiti Albion on the other hand, hailing from the King Country, home of legendary All Black Colin Meads and mediocre Prime Minister Jim Bolger (one out of two ain’t bad), play in the Waikato B league, the league below the league below the league below the league below the Northern League, where they currently sit first after two games. So in theory, this was a team from the fifth tier of club football up against a team from the seventh tier. My money was always on Bucklands Beach.

That was, until the game started. Then I did some serious wavering because these Te Kuiti lads weren’t half bad! Like a lot of cup games, as mentioned above, the more lowly side certainly rose to the occasion, showed a lot of grit and determination and gave their big city foes a hell of a run for their money. Sure, Bucklands Beach were more skilful on the whole, but plucky Albion were positive, they got themselves plenty of possession and launched more than enough raids on the home side’s goal to win the game and then some. The execution was a little bit lacking in a few instances but despite all that, in the first half hour of the game at least, either side could easily have taken the early lead.

As it happened, it was Bucklands Beach who seized the early advantage thanks to a goal blasted home by Khai Nguyan, redeeming himself after firing straight at the keeper on an effort only moments earlier. It would have been easy to expect that to be the start of the rort, but oh contraire, their lead was short lived. Down the other end Mr N. Scott (no first names on the team card so I can’t be more specific than that I’m sorry) added one, then another, to mark an excellent comeback that saw the underdogs buoyantly march to the sheds at half time with an improbable lead!

The second half started much as the first did, with a goal to Bucklands Beach via Guy Chonel which levelled the scores. Then not long after that a penalty was awarded to the home side. I was down the other end but someone who was much closer to it than I told me later that it was “an 8.5 for the dive and 1.5 for the decision”. It’s a pity if that’s true because if it wasn’t for that goal, we could very well have had a different run to the finish. As it happened though, when Yu-Ping Huang sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 3-2, Te Kuiti heads dropped a little bit and when Erdem Dugarov made it 4-2, that was pretty much that.

Bucklands Beach could well have added one or two more late in the game, but I’m glad they didn’t. While their two goal victory did not reflect the gap in status of these two sides, it did fairly reflect the way they played on the day. As for Te Kuiti, if they keep going the way they did today, and grow and improve, I look forward to covering them in the Northern League in a few years’ time!

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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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.

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