WaiBOP United 4, Canterbury United 3
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, January 17 2015
For the past couple of weeks I have been looking forlornly at everyone else’s Facebook pics of holidays spent on Northland and Coromandel beaches. While all my friends were working on their tans, I was slaving away doing the holiday shift at work that enabled others to get their richly deserved Christmas breaks. But no more! Now it’s my turn bitches!
Yesterday was the first day of three weeks’ annual leave for yours truly, and you know what? Stick your golden beaches where the sand don’t quite make it, because what better way to usher in my lazy summer days than with a road trip to watch WaiBOP United?
Before yesterday you might have thought that statement was utterly absurd. But who’s laughing now, eh?
There’s no doubt about it, the first day of any holiday is the best. That sense of release was exhilarating as I headed down State Highway One, CD stacker chock full of good music. All the work stress and burden of other people’s problems were jettisoned through the exhaust pipe as I zoomed through my favourite part of New Zealand – the rural Waikato. I wasn’t just going to a game of football. I was going home.
At the end of that winding country road is the town of Cambridge, where WaiBOP was playing their first ASB Premiership game in the Waikato of season 2014/15, vs Canterbury United at John Kerkhof Park. My choice of road music was deliberate. The ‘Be Good Tanyas’ version of the Neil Young classic – ‘For the Turnstiles’ isn’t just a great road song, but a song for supporters of sporting hopeless cases too…
“You can really
learn a lot that way
It will change you
in the middle of the day.
Though your confidence
may be shattered,
It doesn’t matter.”
“All the bushleague batters
Are left to die
on the diamond.
In the stands
the home crowd scatters
For the turnstiles,
For the turnstiles,
For the turnstiles”
You could deduce that I wasn’t overly confident that I was driving towards an impending famous victory. Who could possibly blame me? This is Waikato football we are talking about and we were playing one of the best teams in the league. I would have had to be crazy to expect three points as any sort of given… But whaddaya know? WaiBOP United damn well chose this particular day to remind me that just when you feel like life can’t get much better, football can deliver the goods with bells on when it wants to.
They were playing pretty well, so it must have been somewhat shattering for the team when, against the run of play, they went behind in the 35th minute. But to their credit they picked themselves up and just kept on going. They played their way back to get their deserved initial equaliser in the first minute of the second half but from that point on, as a supporter, it became a bit like being stuck in an angry sea with waves crashing over your head every time you come up for air. Every time my rossoblu got an equalising goal, on each occasion, Canterbury went straight down the other end and restored their advantage.
When this pattern eventually delivered us to a score line of 3-3, with time almost gone on the clock, nobody would have thought too poorly of WaiBOP had they thrown in the towel and settled for a draw. But that would have been their semi-final hopes extinguished. Instead they kept on fighting and in the 90th minute something truly bizarre occurred – Waikato Bay of Plenty United got the victory they deserved.
It isn’t just a cliché, it’s the certifiable God’s honest truth – there really is a first time for everything.
In the world of football, or of sport in general, hey bugger that – of LIFE in general, what could possibly top watching your normally unreliable at best team come from behind, not once, not twice, but three times and then go on to win a game 4-3 that they could have, and arguably should have, lost? I have been searching around for something to compare it to ever since. To be honest, I still can’t quite get my head around it.
I know it definitely happened. It can’t have been a dream because I still have a slight twinge in my leg from straining a muscle leaping about a meter off the ground with glee when the winner went in. But do we really get to keep the three points? Surely not. I have been following Waikato football for long enough to know that this sort of thing just doesn’t happen. Surely any moment now like a final twist in a bad movie the bad guy will rise from the dead and fire a couple more rounds…
All I know for sure is even if the metaphorical bad guy manifests itself as New Zealand Football taking more points away for something or other, they can never take that 90th minute goal away. Nobody can. Nothing ever will. In millions of years’ time, when the universe has imploded into a black hole, that 4th WaiBOP goal will still have gone in.
I had never seen Waikato FC or WaiBOP United win in my life, until I saw them win at Eden Park just last month against the Phoenix A. Then the very next time I watch them, they put on a show like this.
That’s why we do it. That’s why we football tragics are so tragic – if you wait patiently for years between moments like that, your reward will come…
I feel sorry for people who follow ‘successful’ teams. They will never know what it is like to experience joy like that. They think that people like me are mad for following teams that only triumph once in a blue moon, but this game was exactly what I mean when from time to time I say: It’s only through wretched suffering that you can truly appreciate victory.
What a day! What a team! Grazie WaiBOP!
Categories: NZ Men's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.