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Mixing sport and politics

Auckland Council 36, New Zealand Parliament 21
Trusts Stadium, Auckland, May 4 2014

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They say that sport and politics don’t mix, but there is an exception that proves every rule and, given it’s also a silly rule to begin with, I’m going to indulge in a little passive resistance here and break the crap out of it! To regular readers of this blog it will come as no surprise that my other passion apart from football is my activism in the Labour Party. Something I haven’t written about to date however is the fact that one of the reasons I started writing about football here was to try and achieve some balance. I was far too focussed on politics to the point where it had taken over my life completely and I was losing perspective. This blog has helped to remind me that there is a big wide world out there. Not everything revolves around which party sits on the treasury benches in Wellington and people who aren’t as into politics as I am, or even those who hold different political views to mine, can still be good people and contribute to making the country a better place.

I joined the Labour Party in 1998, and between then and 2011 I held numerous offices at electorate, regional and national levels including stints as Auckland/Northland Regional Chair, on the National Executive on Young Labour, and on the committee that chooses the party list.

At the last election I was Campaign Manager for Carmel Sepuloni in her bid to win the electorate of Waitakere from Cabinet Minister Paula Bennett. This was the campaign that wouldn’t die. We lost by 349 votes on election night. Then miraculously after the special votes (absentee ballots) were counted Carmel was declared elected by 11 votes. Then there was a Judicial Recount which overturned the outcome and after some weeks we officially lost by 9 votes. I was naturally shattered by the result, but worse than that was the fact that I hadn’t had a weekend free to do whatever I wanted with in over a year and barely a week had gone by in the past 12 years when I didn’t have some political task or six that had to be done. The very thought of one more meeting, one more campaign task, or one more fundraiser made me feel like banging my head against a wall. I was burnt out.

I determined that I would take an entire three year electoral cycle off. Since then I have held no political offices, done almost no political work (I still struggle with the art of saying no) and to make it stick I started seriously blogging football. The break has done me a power of good and while I don’t want to speak too soon, in the past few weeks I have finally started to get enthusiastic about Labour again. Last weekend I tentatively did a bit of campaigning in Kelston as a humble foot soldier and found myself quite enjoying it.

So when Carmel asked me to come along to watch the Parliamentary Netball Team play the curtain raiser for the Northern Mystics at Trusts Stadium on Sunday night and take a few snaps for the MPs to use on Facebook, I was happy to do it. Happy because I got to indulge my love of netball, happy because this was a fun political task, and happy because it gave me an excuse to write about politics a little bit.

But in order to make the excuse real, I had better write a little bit about the game!! As Labour List MP Moana Mackey said afterwards, “perhaps we should listen to Meka when she says we need to practice”. The Council team were just too slick but the Parliamentarians weren’t half bad and with a bit more practice I reckon they would have been by far the classier outfit! It helped that they had former Silver Ferns turned Members of Parliament Meka Whaitiri and Louisa Wall in the shooting circle and ring-in Linda Vagana down the other end on defence. But despite that the fitness was somewhat lacking from the MPs and this cost them a bit with constant substitutions not allowing them to settle into a combination or rhythm. The Councillors were younger and faster and their own ring in Leonie Leaver didn’t miss a shot at goal the whole game.

So an easy win for the Council, much to the delight of their ‘coach’ – Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse. I understand the MPs are already calling for a rematch. Perhaps there is some room for a national league including some other city councils who think they can do better than the Super City? If it happens I would be happy to be official photographer once again.

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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:

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