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The home of football

Auckland City 5, Waitakere United 1
North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, February 4 2016

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It feels like I go to North Harbour Stadium an awful lot these days and, I have to say, it’s doing my head in a little bit. Because it feels as though if I’m not extra super-duper vigilant, I’m going to wake up one morning and discover that I actually quite like the place…

That is a very scary thought indeed.

It’s what THEY want, you know? You must know who THEY are. THEM with their conspiracies. THEM who are the reason why tinfoil hats are a necessary part of everyday life…

You see, it’s an open secret that the football powers that be in this country want this place to become the ‘home of football’.

This idea has severe limitations. North Harbour Stadium is on the outskirts of New Zealand’s biggest city – not very convenient for the vast majority of Aucklanders, let alone New Zealanders. The transport linkages aren’t great. The atmosphere is renowned for being barely worthy of the word. The playing surface has been a bit of a national joke lately – admittedly this is fixable, but is it really when we’re sharing it with Rugby?

On the surface, this plan only really has one thing going for it – it would REALLY get the Wellingtonians wailing…

How bad would it really be though?

Lots of great ideas start off as terrible ideas. They can be unpopular simply because people aren’t used to them, but once they settle in we all start to wonder why anyone would ever have been opposed.

This is what scared me so much as I drove towards North Harbour Stadium last night. I felt something… A weird sensation inside my chest… A kind of… warmth! A warm fuzzy feeling!

I’ve been there more than most people have over the past year, around about fifteen times I estimate, and it definitely IS growing on me. There’s no particular part of it that I can point to and say I love, mind. I guess it’s just starting to become like a comfy yet ugly pair of shoes that needed breaking in for a while, but now I struggle to leave the house without them.

You get off the motorway at Oteha Valley Road and when you see the floodlights and that familiar arched shape it feels like you’re going home.

Even when you live in a rundown shack, it can still feel like home.

There were only a couple of hundred people tops at last night’s game. The 248 Service dutifully carried the day and made the atmosphere great. But I’ve been thinking, what if New Zealand Football have got this absolutely right? It may seem like this small crowd in a big stadium thing isn’t working so great at the moment, but maybe it will take off!

Sure, it’s taking a bit of getting used to for ASB Premiership fans. For now it feels weird travelling to home games of either Auckland City or Waitakere United on the North Shore.

But Auckland football fans never used to bat an eyelid when two national league games were played at Newmarket Park every week. It’s been lamented ever since that New Zealand no longer has a home of football. Maybe now we are getting one, and it’s not such a bad thing after all!

But then again, isn’t that what THEY want you to think?

I still don’t like it…

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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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.

2 replies

  1. I reckon it’s a great little stadium, and it really came into its own during the U-20 World Cup.

    With a few extra buses laid on transport is not a problem, and there’s tons of parking about the place. It is modern, so won’t require expensive upgrades, it’s well setup for catering and VIP stuff, and it has superb training facilities for the players. The atmosphere builds up nicely once maybe 5000 people turn up, and it can rock once double that number are on board (eg Phoenix v Victory).

    For spectators it is a mixed bag – not that much protection from the elements – but I’ve enjoyed some cracking games there and now the place has some real history. That FIFA tournament, and the U-17 one a few years ago, showed what a great venue it can be, so if we want an Auckland base this is the one.

    1. It has a few issues but it’s not as bad as people make out. Personally I prefer Mt Smart as a viewing stadium but beggars can’t be choosers. The only way to get a perfect football stadium is to build one and that ain’t happening. The only other real option for a ‘home of football’ is Wellington.

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