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It’s been miserable. And awesome.

Auckland City 4, WaiBOP United 1
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, February 28 2016

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Being a fan of Waikato national league football entities is a lot like being one of those fairground clowns, head rotating back and forth from side to side waiting for the next Ping-Pong ball to be shoved in your gob. So far I’ve cheered for Waikato United, Melville United, Waikato FC, WaiBOP United and from this day forth it’s Hamilton Wanderers… Yes Bruce, I know it’s technically Wanderers Sports Club but I’m sorry. I can’t do it. For the time being I need to cling to the word Hamilton as the security blanket that assures me they are not ‘wandering’ anywhere and I’m still cheering for a Waikato club, not a Bolton one.

I’m still struggling a bit with this transition. Cut me some slack…

Anyhoo, as we bid farewell to yet another short lived Waikato national league entity, I thought it would be fun to compile a short list of highlights from my tortured existence following our game’s pinnacle club competition in my home region. In chronological order they are:

1.

My favourite Waikato United goals of them all by far were scored against North Shore United at Allen Hill Stadium. The best of the best also featured my North Shore United loving brother standing next to me with a face like thunder having gloated all morning about how my team of provincial nobodies were sure to go down to his team of city slicking all-stars… By far the best of such killer moments was in 1992, when the good guys won 2-0. I was wearing red yellow and black from head to toe and when Mark Cossey bludgeoned Waikato’s second from point blank range he looked straight at me standing right behind the upright. Both of us had our fists triumphantly raised in the air as we yelled “YEEAAGGGHHHHH!!!!” in unison!

Just last year, my brother happened to be in Hamilton and stumbled across a Hamilton Wanderers training session in a random suburban park. Upon his return to Auckland he asked me who the short stocky coach was. It was the terrifying repressed memory of that goal that turned him a funny shade of purple when I said the words Mark Cossey.

2.

1995 was the year I left home and spent a miserable year living in Tauranga before moving to Auckland and finding my feet there. The weekend I left the Bay of Plenty, with all my stuff on a trailer and vowing never to return (I eventually lost the battle to avoid a return visit but it took over a decade) I bade a not so fond yet satisfying farewell to the place with a visit to Links Avenue where Darrin Brown scored a hat-trick that got the Waikato United fans singing – a Waikato football phenomenon that’s so rare I can count the number of times I’ve witnessed it on one hand!

3.

One of the other times on that one hand was during the wonderfully rustic season when Waikato FC played at Centennial Park in Ngaruawahia after almost disappearing completely over the abyss of financial ruin.

Entry was by koha. You could buy old match-worn player shirts out of a cardboard box by the side-line to help pay the bills. And there was a young player that all the other guys in the team seemed to spend all their time yelling at – his name was Marco Rojas and he’s now under contract at VfB Stuttgart.

That season there was a group of ladies sitting in the bleachers who sang a very half-hearted low mumble rendition of “we all cheer for a team of volunteers” which actually provided the icing on the cake for a season that really couldn’t have been any more peak Waikato football if it had worn gumboots and a Swandri.

4.

Between season one and season eleven of the ASB Premiership I attended several dozen Waikato FC ad WaiBOP United games without ever seeing a single victory.

Wretched losing streaks are not things that you embark on. You don’t know you’re in one until you are well into it. But once the penny drops, and you get into the spirit of the experience, it’s not as bad as it sounds! In fact, it’s strangely satisfying. It’s like running a marathon. When you get to the end you feel a sense of accomplishment – like you are tough, disciplined and, most importantly of all, it makes you feel superior. You get to feel better than other ‘lesser fans’ who would have given up by the 34th or 35th straight loss…

5.

No list of highlights could possibly be complete without mentioning THE Canterbury United game. The famous Canterbury United game. The clash of Cambridge. The blast-off from John Kerkhoff. The whipping at Waipa. The 4-3 WaiBOP United victory that was the granddaddy of all WaiBOP United victories.

Yep. That was kinda cool.

6.

And that brings us to today. A happy ‘going out on a high’ ending to this film was never really on the cards at Kiwitea Street, let’s face it. But I still did manage to make myself a memory of the demise of WaiBOP United that would not be out of place amongst those listed above!

Back in December, in my epic ‘My favourite Year’ post, I mused about taking selfies with famous footballers in the context of discussing how accessible and friendly New Zealand’s top footballers are. I said that I could probably take a selfie with a New Zealand footballer without freezing if I was a sad enough bastard. I also said that if I ever tried it, I’d report back with the results. Well, this game seemed like the perfect opportunity to put my theory to the test…

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So that’s it, the curtain falls on yet another Ping-Pong ball lodged in my oesophagus. I can’t wait to see what great memories/choking hazards HAMILTON (sorry not sorry) Wanderers have in store for me! Despite what I’ve written in the past, my only real request to them is this: Stick around for more than three years, will you please?

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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Enzo Giordani

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/

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