It was raining when I arrived at North Harbour stadium, some eighteen hours after I had left after yesterdays games. The gates were shut and they weren’t opening for another half an hour. Huddling under the one shelter were a mix of Solomon Warrior supporters, in their bright red t-shirts, and the Auckland City supporters, with their distinctive low Eastern European grumble.
And Diego Freire, intrepid Brazilian football blogger from Ultima Divisao who I last met at a soggy Ngahue Reserve last year. He was on the hunt for an interview with Amicale’s Brazilian centre back Diego Galvao, and seemed hopeful that he could get a phone call from A.S Tefana’s luckless keeper. Apparently the own goal he scored on Friday is big news everywhere. Poor bloke.
The last time City played here they lost 4 – 2 to a TeeDubs team who, let’s face it, played better on the day than Auckland. Changes had been made to the sign, with Fabrizio Tavano coming in up front and Ryan De Vries and Joao Moreira on the bench. The defence of White, Berlanga, Kim and Iwata still appeared, on the surface, a little rickety.
Not a problem, it turned out. Solomon Warriors seldom troubled Diego Rivas in the City goal, although Kensi Tangis certainly made Berlanga and Kim work hard with his movement and muscle. But nobody scored and there wasn’t much to the first half.
Half Time: Auckland City 0 – 0 Solomon Warriors
The 248 weren’t their jubilant self, possibly because of a lack of % alcohol beverages on sale. I mention this because, shortly after the first goal scored by Kim from a corner – a fine header outwitting the leaping keeper – I went to get something to eat. Making notes is hungry work.
There’s one food van at OCL games, and one man working on it. With over 200 people in the ground, the queue was about ten metres long and slow moving. It was also outside of the soaring canopy of North Harbour, so we were standing in the rain. It was cold. There were 65 minutes on the clock when I joined the queue.
Joao Moreira scored on 74 minutes. I was wet and cold. Still not ordered.
Joao scores again on 85 minutes. Wet. Cold. Not ordered.
Joao completes his hat trick on 92 minutes. Still not ordered. Wet. Cold.
The game finishes. The teams warm down and head inside. Wet. Cold. Hungry. Queuing.
About 50 minutes passes between joining the queue and ordering food. The 248 come to hand me my bag, as they head to the pub just as I get the chips I asked for. I wait another five minutes for my coffee and sausage on a stick. Micah Lea’alafa, showered and changed, walks past me. I’m three minutes shy of an hour by the time I’m back under cover, balancing my chips on my coffee cup.
As I walk back to my seat to take in the next game, the ball boys and substitutes come out for the next match. I take out my pad and pen and get ready to watch. The coffee is good, but not worth waiting that long for.
But part of me wanted to go home. Another, smaller, part wondered why the usual food and drink stands weren’t open. A smaller part of me still wondered if that’d happen at Kiwitea St or Centre Park or anywhere else.
And the smallest, but loudest, voice said “Thank Christ they didn’t actually try and get people to come to this, it’d put them off coming to football games for life”
It was still raining.
Categories: OFC Champions League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.