Ranui Swanson 1, Waiheke United 4
Starling Park, Auckland, April 23 2016
Well, now I’ve seen everything.
A full on ultras group of maniacs drumming and singing at the top of their lungs through an entire AFF/NFF Conference game. Not the A-League, not the ASB Premiership, and not the Chatham Cup – the AFF/NFF Conference!!
Waikeke United, representing a little island in the Hauraki Gulf, newly promoted from Auckland Football’s top federation tier, have looked well capable on paper of earning promotion to the Northern League this season.
The heavily Argentinian influenced side sit in third, within striking distance of Bucklands Beach at the top of the league. And it was the ‘overseas’ visitors who brought all the atmosphere to the party today with a supporters group who told me their official name was ‘La Banda del Pipazo’. When I asked them what that meant they went all sheepish and confessed it translates as ‘The Band of the Pipe’. What kind of pipe? They didn’t specify but I think one of their flags probably holds the clue…
The home side also played their part in a very compelling match. Ranui Swanson look to have a fairly young team this year, under the tutelage of Lee Gosshawk – the brains behind Oratia United’s assent out of the Conference to the NRFL a few years ago. They were quite highly fancied in the run-up to the league this year, but they don’t appear to have lived up to their potential. Their lone victory thus far leaves them in tenth place – third from the bottom.
Their youthful exuberance was definitely a match for the Latin flair of their opponents though, at least to begin with. And to underline this point it was the home side that drew first blood – albeit against the run of play – with a nice counterattacking goal scored by Chris Groen in the 17th minute.
That wasn’t the end of the bad luck for the visitors either. Waiheke suffered a second and potentially more serious blow when their dangerous looking forward, Timothy Cheshire, collided with the opposition keeper and did himself an injury serious enough for it to end his afternoon. I saw his ankle after the game and it was the size of a proverbial beach ball… Hopefully it’s not season ending but it didn’t look great.
Despite these setbacks, in true ultras style the fans just got louder and the injury replacement, Nicolas Chamlet, did his part by playing an absolute blinder. The first half substitute started by driving home an equalizer just after the half hour mark that saw the two sides head into the sheds at the break with the scores level. Then in the 61st minute he had a double, and following a lovely chip over the keeper’s head by Nico Cordiano to take the score to 3-1 in the 70th minute, Chamlet completed his hat-trick in the first minute of referee’s time added on at the end of the 90.
The idea behind today was to make my annual pilgrimage to support my local team – Ranui-Swanson. But the plan quickly evaporated when I saw and heard what Waiheke had to offer. The South American beats coupled with a razzle-dazzle brand of fast paced football – even if they couldn’t always pull off the fancy moves they tried – made for a great spectacle and really won me over.
It surely begs the question: If these relative minnows can do it, what’s wrong with the rest of the country?
I suppose not everyone has an Argentinian community amongst their support base! Still, that’s no excuse really. The moral of the story is that when a group of fans from any culture lends their voices in support of their football team it creates an atmosphere that is guaranteed to grow the fan base!
Categories: NZ AFF/NFF Men's Conference
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.