New Zealand 1, Korea DPR 1
Bill McKinlay Park, Auckland, February 8 2015
As a very wise man, by the name of Fred Dagg, once said – “we don’t know how lucky we are” to have this great country of ours. It’s no cliché. Well… it is, in fact a horrible cliché, but it’s still true! We really don’t. We’ve got the best scenery in the world, the best beaches, the best sheep, the best bloggers…. And the 18th best football team in the world! I refer of course to the world number 18 ranked Football Ferns – our magnificent New Zealand women’s national team.
What a lot of people don’t realise, to their eternal detriment, is that residents of this country have the ability, on any given Sunday in winter, to wander onto little suburban parks and watch players like Annalie Longo, Helen Collins and Erin Nayler to name but a few. Where else in the world can you witness international footballers who play week-in week-out for FIFA top 20 footballing nations on not much more than cow paddocks? In Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch you can pay no money whatsoever, jostle nobody, and walk straight up to a football sideline to do just that.
If these were male footballers you’d be paying 40, 50, 60 euros to watch them play in 60,000 seat stadia. That’s the type of quality that was on display in Panmure last night – and then some!
It doesn’t stop there. If you’re not easily impressed by rock star players at clubs like Claudelands Rovers or Coastal Spirit, how about Manchester City (Betsy Hassett), Notts County (Katie Hoyle) – both in the English Women’s Superleague, and USV Jena (Abby Erceg, Ria Percival, Amber Hearn) or SC Sand (Rebekah Stott) – both in the German Frauen Bundesliga. A little over 1,000 people at Bill McKinlay Park got to witness all this and more last night as they met the world’s 7th best team – the Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea.
One of the big highlights of the evening for me was getting an up close perspective on the differences between numbers 18 and 7 in the world in terms of approach and application – they were quite glaring.
The warm-ups were a great microcosm of this. The Koreans were extremely disciplined, running exacting drills, doing laps of the pitch in groups that resembled platoons, and looking every bit like they were there for one reason and one reason only – to do a job. Meanwhile, by complete contrast, the Ferns looked completely laid back – giggling, joking and clearly very much enjoying themselves and each other.
I found this quite fascinating. There could be many views on how you might want to see your team immediately before a game in order to be confident in them performing at their best – relaxed or tense? Personally I doubt either disposition is better or worse, just different.
Despite the vastly different approaches on display, when it came down to it there was nothing between them on the scoreboard at least, and hardly a vast ocean in reality. I thought Korea DPR did indeed look 11 rungs on the rankings ladder better than us – in this regard, precision won out over effervescence. But nonetheless I continue to be impressed by the way our Ferns approach the game. They have a great team spirit and culture that really shines through. As a result I predict a tough day at the office for the Matildas of Australia at the same venue on Thursday night!
See you there!
Categories: Football Ferns
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.