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Where the heart leads

Auckland City 1, Wellington Phoenix A 3
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, January 11 2014

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What is it about big dominant football clubs that makes people dislike them?

It’s not just New Zealand’s oft lamented ‘tall poppy syndrome’, it’s a worldwide phenomenon.  Ask most Germans what they think of Bayern Munich, most English supporters how they feel about Manchester United or most Italians how they view Juventus and you will get a similar response. People like winners. Until you start to win too often. At that point the ‘backyard cricket’ type side of human nature kicks in – that compulsive feeling of wanting to “give someone else a turn”.

It doesn’t help that winning can make you arrogant. You’re the best, everyone tells you that you’re the best several times a day and it can maybe go to your head sometimes, leading to others resenting you as a result.

This question was brought into sharp focus for me yesterday. With their recent success on the world stage reopening the perhaps fanciful but still quite real debate about whether Auckland City FC should be given an A-League license, I found myself presented with a moral dilemma. If this happens, they will be my local professional team. They will be playing in the city I live in. Surely I have a duty to support them? Of course I would, at least in terms of buying a season ticket and going to every home game, but what would I be feeling in my heart while doing so?

Am I capable of truly loving an Auckland A-League franchise? Would I be able to bring myself to cheer for Auckland City FC? Would I spontaneously celebrate when they score like I would if it was a Waikato team? Or would I be a Wellington Phoenix supporter on the inside?

Yesterday’s ASB Premiership match at Kiwitea Street was an interesting opportunity to find out. As these two teams met, surely I would get all my questions answered by my state of mind as I watched each side trade blows. Which one would make me involuntarily roar with approval? Who would get my heart racing when they surged into the penalty area?

When all was said and done however, the sad truth is I didn’t really care. It was just a pleasant afternoon in the sun with a bit of excitement thrown in – four goals and a brawl! If you had held a gun to my head during the game and compelled me, on pain of death, to choose who I wanted to get the three points I would have probably said the Phoenix but it would hardly have been a ringing endorsement – more that I just like the underdog in most situations when I don’t have any skin in the game.

Auckland City have this uncanny knack for finding all sorts of ways to make it easy for me to feel little affection for them. Admittedly it doesn’t take much given my natural Waikato leanings to dislike all sports teams with Auckland on or around their badge. But examples like yesterday, when apart from a couple of players they stomped off the field like rotten losers at full time without shaking hands with the refs or too many of their opponents, can be a real eye opener for neutrals.

I guess when you don’t lose too often you get out of practice at it.

Call me a bandwagon jumper, but I’ve developed a real fondness for the Phoenix in the A-League lately. It has taken me a while. I previously found the whole competition really bland and vanilla and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get overly excited about it. Now, with Ernie Merrick and his fancy new signings playing jogo bonito, I am jumping up and down in front of the television set. But for some reason it didn’t really translate to yesterday.

This might seem like a small thing, but I was a little surprised that there was no guard of honour for the home side as they walked out onto the pitch for their first game back. I was also unimpressed with some of the calls from Phoenix fans afterwards that this result somehow diminished Auckland City’s achievement at the Club World Cup. Two golden opportunities right there for the Nix to show some class sprayed over an empty goal in my opinion.

There is absolutely no question in my mind that whatever you think of them, no other New Zealand club could have achieved what City achieved had places in Morocco been traded. Equally there’s no doubt about it, beating the team fresh off the plane from beating the world was a massive feat for the Wee Nix, one they should be exceedingly proud of. But it still smacks of jealousy to not properly acknowledge Auckland City’s magnificent achievement when the opportunity arises.

No, the real answer to my question of where my heart was during this match was that while Auckland City and the Wellington Phoenix were duking it out, I was already daydreaming about next week, when I’m going to be in Cambridge to watch WaiBOP United play. There’s no two ways about it – that’s where my first love truly lies and where it always will – no matter what.

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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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/

1 reply

  1. I would be quite happy for another part of the country getting a team and Auckland just getting a game each. Nelson would be good as quite close for Derby games other than that, Christchurch or Tauranga

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