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My first game redux

Mount Albert Ponsonby 0, North Shore United 2
Anderson Park, Auckland, June 2 1014

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Back in 2011 I submitted a piece of writing to the hugely popular United Kingdom based football blog ‘The Ball is Round’, who were running a series entitled ‘My first game’. They duly published my article about my first ever football watching experience – a 1992 Mount Albert Ponsonby vs North Shore United Chatham Cup tie. And with that, the cheese and pineapple toasted sandwiches that changed my life found an international audience.

When I read back over it again now, it’s far from my favourite thing I’ve ever written, as you might expect from something I threw together when this blog was just getting going. I think my writing has improved since then, as it should. But none the less the piece does adequately convey what I loved about that game, much of which is still what moves me 22 years later. Which is good, because not a lot of it has changed that much!

It was fate that brought me back to Anderson Park today. I am resolved to follow whoever wins each Cup tie I attend this season, and I could not have imagined, when I selected Buckland’s Beach vs Te Kuiti Albion for my opening round match, that the home side would go on to be knocked out by Mount Albert Ponsonby, who would then in turn draw a home tie against North Shore United to send me back to this re-enactment of my first ever game! But the fact that that’s exactly what occurred is quite delightful, and resulted in a wonderful afternoon for me, even if it wasn’t such a happy reunion for Mount Albert Ponsonby.

The day’s highlight for me was undoubtedly meeting and briefly chatting to a lovely lady by the name of Maureen Burnside. Maureen toiled away as a volunteer in the Anderson Park kitchen for around fifteen years prior to her retirement from such duties around 1999, and undoubtedly was the person who made my toasted sandwich in 1992! So if you enjoy reading in-the-back-of-the.net and you want to thank someone for its existence, don’t thank me. Head down to Anderson Park on a Saturday in winter and ask for Maureen. It’s volunteers like her that really make football clubs tick and without them there would be nothing.

I can also confirm that while you are there, if you sample the new generation of cheese and pineapple toasties from the new post-Maureen chef, you will not be disappointed! I had a 2014 version of the delicacy today (purely for research purposes you understand) and it passed muster with flying colours!

As for the game, well the number of goals scored in regulation time is one other thing that hasn’t changed since ’92, and although both were scored by one team rather than by one each, the end result of North Shore advancing to the last 32 remained the same. For a while though, I was wondering if these two sides had conspired to put on another penalty shootout for me! For the first two thirds of the game they traded blows and took turns to spurn chances in front of their opponent’s respective nets. On balance though, North Shore did seem to be getting more such opportunities and looked to be playing the slightly better football, but it all counted for nothing while they were spraying shots in all directions apart from at the target.

Obviously they got there in the end, although their opening goal was a tad controversial. It was the result of a goal line melee where Scott Wikinson managed to bludgeon one home, but MAP keeper Robbie Graham found himself splayed on the ground inside the goal and was genuinely aggrieved, feeling that he had been bowled over by Shore attackers. The second goal came from a breakaway that drew Graham off his line enabling Jaryd Gray to slot past him.

Hard luck for MAP! They were beaten by a better side on the day, but it was also the sort of game that they could have just as easily snatched. As for Shore, they will be the team I am honour bound to follow from now until they either get knocked out or lift the trophy. The draw for the next round is coming up and the next poetic thing for me would probably be a tie for Shore against Waikato United’s successor club, Melville. But who knows what the football gods have in store. My only real hope is for an interesting game with the potential to go all the way to penalties. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen one do that and I’m quite happy if it happens here rather than at the World Cup!

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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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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