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The battle of Milford Reserve

Team Japan 6 (Haru 2, Anna 2, Michi, Mark), Team Korea 5 (Nando 3, Toni, Trevor)
Milford Reserve, Auckland, January 18 2015

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In my 4 years or so writing this blog I have covered games of real significance. Chatham Cup finals, ASB Premiership finals, New Zealand Women’s Knockout Cup finals, ASB Women’s League finals – the four summits of the New Zealand domestic game. I have also covered internationals, A League semi-finals and even World Cup qualifiers.

But brace yourself, loyal readers, because never before has any football game I have previously blogged about come remotely close to the monumental, world changing, Earth shattering importance of this. For behold! The Giordani Family summer kick-around.

Trust me, if you’ve ever seen anyone in my family compete for something, anything, you’ll know what I mean. It’s no-holds-barred, brutal, bare knuckled war, and for the loser – a punishment worse than a season pass to the away end at Millwall. The bragging lasts forever. You will never hear the end of it. EVER. However long you may be unfortunate enough to live.

In the blue corner was the flashy and skilful Team Japan, boasting such stars of the game as Haru and Michi (who you’ve met before), Haru and Michi’s dad Junya, my sister Anna, Hineata and on the bench they had my brother Mark.

In the red corner was the steely and determined Team Korea, with a crack squad that included my brothers Toni and Nando, Toni’s homestay guest Gayeon (the Korean connection), Hineata’s dad Trevor, and substitute goalkeeper/reckless defender yours truly. Mark’s mother in law also made a brief cameo appearance late in the second stanza for the Koreans.

The battle took place amid some controversy – a protest that almost resulted in the whole event being canceled when claims surfaced that called into question the suitability of the originally planned venue, Sylvan Park. According to the captain of Team Japan, Haru, there were “too many prickles”. A boycott was threatened that would have seen Team Japan default. However, fortunately, an eleventh hour compromise was reached and after a thorough pitch inspection the fixture was shifted to Milford Reserve.

It was a titanic struggle, as you would expect when two sides of this calibre (very low, think cap-gun) go head to head. Team Japan used their pace, manoeuvrability and youthful energy well and their two stand out players (the only two in the whole game who can actually play the game properly), Haru and Michi, did not disappoint.

Michi is the more attack minded of the two but the threat he posed was largely dealt with competently by the opposing back 5. Indeed, Team Korea’s somewhat Italian inspired 5-0-0 formation proved effective in marking the pint-sized strike weapon out of the game. Although he did manage one goal which may or may not have had something to do with me trying to take photos and play goalkeeper at the same time…

With all the defensive attention on Michi however, this did provide openings for his teammates that resulted in traditional defenders Haru and Anna managing to earn themselves a brace each.

But the Team Korean catenaccio system also proved effective on the counterattack! This was reflected in Nando’s well deserved hat trick, with one goal in particular standing out thanks to a brilliant Tottiesque assist straight from the magnificent Romanista goalkeeper! The run was timed to perfection with the ball poked through the cones beating a sprawling Japan keeper Junya. Poetry in motion.

The difference between the two sides manifested itself right at the death, in the use of their respective subs benches. With the scores locked at five apiece, and time up on the clock (AKA everyone was buggered) we went into the dreaded park football equivalent of Golden Goal Extra Time – ‘Next Goal Wins’. It was at this point that Japan brought on their secret weapon. Fresh legs in the form of the fierce and fearsome battering ram known only as ‘Mark’…

He plundered his way through the Team Korea defence like a knife through butter and directed his shot high and with force. There was little the keeper could have done – honest! Despite a hint of doubt that it might have cleared the crossbar if there had been one, Team Korea accepted the defeat with humility and grace in the face of wild Japanese celebrations.

It was fine, really. We were content in the knowledge that, as I always say, the concepts of winning and losing are nothing but worthless Eurocentric notions, shackled upon us by our colonial oppressors.

Besides, let’s face it, everyone on that park knew we were the better side regardless of some silly score.

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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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