WaiBOP United 0, Auckland City 2
Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, December 20 2015
[The below was published in the WaiBOP United match day programme today and I’m lazy so I’m also posting it as my piece from the game. There will be a substantial WaiBOP post midweek to make up for it!]
When I’m asked where I’m from, it’s a complex question without the easy answer people expect of me. If I was quoting my whakapapa, I would probably tell you that my mountain is Rome’s Janiculum and my river is the Tiber – the home of my ancestors on my father’s side. Despite that, I was born in Auckland and lived there until I was three. I live in Auckland again now and have done since I was 20.
But if home is where the heart is, for me it would probably be the home of my ancestors on my mother’s side, the place I grew up and where I became who I am today – the Waikato, and more specifically a little place, on the banks of the river, by the name of Huntly.
It wasn’t always easy being half-Italian in a small rural New Zealand town though. The odd-sounding name that the kids used to tease me about was one thing, but as I got older and my tastes developed things grew increasingly awkward. I preferred the perceived `girl’s drink’ of wine over the more ‘manly’ beer, Italian foods such as pasta over the more traditional Kiwi ‘meat and three veg’, but most treasonous of all was my preference for ‘sissy soccer’ over the oval ball game that shapes New Zealand’s national identity.
Italians and Waikato folk do have one thing in common though – they often put province before country. The one thing they dislike more than football loving wine drinkers down in the Waikato, is Aucklanders. When it comes to sport, I grew up supporting two teams, Waikato and whoever is playing Auckland and despite having lived in Auckland for the past 20 years, that sense of Waikato parochialism will be with me for the rest of my life.
The overarching consequence of this strange mixed upbringing is that I am both out of place and at home in each of the worlds I belong to. In Italy I can’t speak the language so get treated like a tourist. In New Zealand my Italian heritage marks me out as being different. Where I live, the Waikato is the butt of many jokes. And I’ll never forget the first time I returned to Hamilton for a Waikato Ranfurly Shield game after moving to the big smoke – I went up to a bar to order a drink only for the bartender to ask me where I lived and then refuse to serve me after I said Auckland!
Being a football fan in New Zealand is isolating enough without adding to that by supporting Waikato football teams in Auckland but I’ve never been one to do things by halves despite the distinct lack of anything much to cheer about! I could make life easy for myself by switching my allegiances to Auckland City so I can celebrate lots of trophies or Waitakere United so I can attend games five minutes’ drive from where I live. But that’s just not who I am!
When Fabio Capello coached my favourite Italian team, AS Roma, to the club’s last league title in 2001, he said “a trophy at Roma is worth ten at Milan or Juventus.” And he should know – he won them at those clubs too. I feel the same way about WaiBOP United. I may never see them win a trophy. But, if I ever do, it will be better than witnessing all the trophy presentations in the world anywhere else. Because to earn that win I have had to stay loyal through so many hard times. But also because it’s still home.
Categories: NZ Men's National League
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/