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Alma mater

University of Auckland 3, Auckland University of Technology 4 (Women)
University of Auckland 4, Auckland University of Technology 5 (Men)
University of Auckland Recreation Centre, Auckland, March 3 2015

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University, or “college” sport isn’t as big in New Zealand as it is in other countries. Why that is, I’m not too sure. I’m vaguely aware that there are “University” rugby and cricket clubs in Auckland and that ‘Uni’ is a part of the ‘Unimount’ football club, but I don’t recall ever reading newspaper articles about rival kiwi universities pitted against each other in huge sporting events like the Oxford v Cambridge boat race or NCAA gridiron in the States. Personally, I think that’s a bit of a pity.

For many people who have been lucky enough to attend university, we look back on those years as the best of our lives. I certainly feel that way about my time at the University of Auckland, where I studied politics and education in the early 2000s. And now that I also work on campus there, my bond with the place has only grown stronger. So this is the one exception to my rule of supporting two teams – Waikato and whoever is playing Auckland!

Not that there was much choice in that regard here anyway! Going up against my alma mater in this, the annual Orientation Week futsal challenge, was AUT (Auckland University of Technology) who, in the finest traditions of logical New Zealand public policy and planning, are situated right across the road from UoA.

Both of these games were thrillers and really went right down to the wire, but the pick of them for me was the women’s game. They both had basically everything you could wish for. Sharp saves, amazing trickery, desperate defence, devastating finishes, and results that were up in the air right through to the end. But despite UoA coming back from a two goal deficit to level the men’s game with less than two minutes remaining, I always felt that AUT were going to find the extra spark they needed – and they did.

The women’s game, on the other hand, had a twisting plot that Joss Whedon would have been proud of.

Before the match, UoA were conducting their warm-ups in a professional and organised manner on the court – and there were heaps of them, including a few familiar faces from the Northern League such as Tessa Leong, Shivy Anthony, Hannah Kraakman and others. Meanwhile, over in the opposite corner, four AUT outfielders (the minimum for a team, albeit including Football Fern Evie Millynn) were having the rules of futsal explained to them…

The game got underway with a full bench on one side and a lone reserve goalkeeper sitting on the other. UoA started furiously, as you might expect, pounding the AUT goal with shot after shot after shot. But AUT had a secret weapon in goal – top notch keeper Rivalina Fuimaono, whose sheer heroics between the sticks stopped her side from staring down the barrel of a 3 or 4 goal deficit right off the bat.

When, completely against the run of play, AUT’s Carmen Gutierrez struck home a goal that gave her side an unlikely 1-0 lead, I wasn’t bothered. But just as I smugly looked up from my notes on the goal, I saw a sickening sight.

Trotting down the stairs and towards the court, obviously  running late for the game, emblazoned in AUT colours, were Belinda van Noorden, Emma Rolston, Hannah Carlsen, Dallas Olsen, and my exact words to myself were “oh shit”. These are four of New Zealand’s best female footballers.

UoA levelled the scores just as the reinforcements were being rushed onto the court but from that point on AUT stepped it up about thirty notches and suddenly we not only had a ball game, but AUT were looking well on top. Despite that, Shivy Anthony drove home a brilliant long range effort that gave UoA a 2-1 lead going into the break. But then, earlyish in the second half, the momentum completely changed as van Noorden struck not once but twice to give AUT its second lead of the morning.

UoA Managed to pull it back to 3-3, and they could have taken the lead back on a few occasions but for more heroics from Fuimaono, but then we were treated to a deciding goal that literally took my breath away. Back to the net and a fair way out, Emma Rolston flicked the ball over her head, spun around, and before it hit the ground – KAPOW! Goodnight nurse.

I’m not the biggest fan of futsal it has to be said, but if every game was like that I’d watch a lot more of it!

Categories: Futsal

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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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