With the big man back in the country and back in contention for a place in Anthony Hudson’s All Whites squad, this throwback is dedicated to a moment where Rory Fallon etched his name into the history of the national soccer team. It looks like this.
45′ – Fallon.
“Sigmund, look for the cross, one of the back three playing as a winger, great work too from Sigmund, the cross not a match for the initial run but another corner, another set piece as we approach half time”
“Good initiative from Ben Sigmund there, got caught with the ball going forward and then just kept going. Normally you’d expect him to cross early or look for someone else, he just took the responsibility to get in a very, very advanced position and he’s won his side a corner”
“To the exultation of the home fans, Bertos chance GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAL, GOOOAAAAAAL NEW ZEALAND.”
Leo Bertos was also in the news this week, returning to play for Hamilton Olympic in the Australian NPL. His corner, that evening in Wellington, brought the Cake Tin to its feet and silenced the commentary team.
These days it’s almost unforgivable to leave dead air in commentary, every moment and incident must be described in detail or commented upon by whoever else is in the commentary box. But not here.
There are eighteen seconds of silence between the last words in the transcribed text above and the next, eighteen seconds filled with the roar of over thirty thousand Kiwis who’d started believing that the impossible was possible. Eighteen seconds of the crowd, of absolute scenes, of sheer jubilation among the bouncing hordes. Nothing needs to be said about it.
It’s an iconic moment, partly because it is re-playable again and again and again, captured and spread around the world. Like here, here, here or here. It’s Kenneth Wolstenhome in ’66, it’s Barry Davis’ ‘Lee, interesting, VERY INTERESTING…look at his face, just look at his face’. It matters at a instinctive level, bringing gooseflesh and a nostalgic sigh.
But we also get to see it from a perspective no commentator could, from within the crowd. The quality suits 2009 mobile recording, but it takes away none of the moment. Here, here and here. And here, here and here too. Effectively you get a three hundred and sixty degree view, all in grainy footage, all ending with a roar which would wake the dead from their graves.
It may, in fact, be the most recorded goal ever scored on New Zealand soil. But here’s what happens anyway, in a bit more detail.
As Bertos goes to take the kick, the All Whites are stood in a T shape inside the Bahrain penalty area. Shane Smeltz is pushed up between defenders, causing the goalkeeper no end of grief. Rory Fallon is the next man out, two yards goalside of the penalty spot with a defender who appears to be giving him a cuddle. Ryan Nelsen appears poised to get a piggyback, stood just behind. Standing just inside the eighteen yard box, parallel to the goal mouth, Chris Killen, Tim Brown and Ben Sigmund wait.
The ball is lofted in, a gentle inward curve masked by the height and dip to come.
As the ball is struck Fallon pushes away from Faouzi Aaish and takes a step back, towards the far post. The defender is ball watching and moves forward into the space Fallon leaves, only for Nelsen to engage, snare and manoeuvre him so that as the goal is scored, he’s stranded a yard behind the big striker. Freed of his marker Fallon steps forward and tenses to jump.
Killen and Sigmund pelt towards the six yard box, Sigmund going to the near post while Killen waits behind to take advantage of any potential flick on. Brown waits for a rebound further out.
Fallon’s remaining marker, the Bahraini striker Sayed Adnan Hussein, leaves him and attempts to deal with the ball by stepping towards it. He leaps high, higher than Fallon does but the ball is out of reach. But the ball is also beginning to dip.
Ben Sigmund has now got in front of Fallon but there’s not a defender near him now. Rory has already started his ascent. The Bahrain #17, Hussein Ali Baba, throws himself towards the unmarked striker, unable to prevent what is about to happen. On the near post Mohamed Hubail stands motionless.
Fallon dips his head goalwards. Contact. Sayed Jaffer attempts a reflex save but already Sigmund has taken off towards the corner flag, one arm raised. Fallon isn’t far behind him, and overtakes, as the whole team converges on Leo Bertos.
“GOAAAAAAAAAAL, GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL NEW ZEALAND.”
And eighteen seconds of glorious noise.
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.