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Il Derby della Nord

Kaeo Inter 1, Kerikeri 1
Whangaroa College, Kaeo, June 4 2016

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What would you do if you suddenly had a billion dollars?

If you’re anything like me, your answer will be that you would buy your favourite football club and run it your way. Sure, you could feed the poor of an entire country, build schools, fund cancer research… You’ve got to admit, though, that owning the football club you’ve supported your whole life would be much more rewarding and fun! A dream come true in fact.

Pity it will never happen…

But wait, what if there is a cheaper option? The Stefano Virgili model. Start your own version of your favourite team from scratch wherever you are right now!

If you haven’t previously heard of Stefano, you need to find a way to watch the documentary ‘Stefano’s Team’ – a superb short film about the man’s passion for his beloved Inter Milan that burns so strong that he started his very own Inter in Kaeo. If you can’t get hold of the film, there is also this excellent audio piece on Radio New Zealand. Listen to it before you read on – it’s only eleven minutes long.

This wasn’t just any game for Kaeo Inter. It was a derby with their closest and fiercest rivals.

Kerikeri isn’t really like the rest of Northland. It’s more wealthy and Pakeha than the economically depressed and predominantly Maori region it’s located within. And for Stefano, Kerikeri symbolises  Juventus, in his words “reflecting wealth, the system in its favour and reigning champions status.”

Of course, it’s worth noting that there’s no love lost between me and Internazionale di Milano! They were Roma’s big scudetto rivals in 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2009/10 – prevailing in all three of those battles, relegating my beloved Lupi to bridesmaid status and doing so by picking up points against us in what I would deem to be rather dubious circumstances!

And during this game there were some moments that I would describe as ‘peak Inter’! I’ll leave you to work out which ones I’m referring to…

Kerikeri started the game strongly, immediately looking assured on attack and well in control. But it was an unforced error at the back from Stefano that allowed Matt Cook to be released 1v1 with the keeper, and he duly slotted to give the visitors the early lead.

In true Juventus style, Kerikeri supplied the referee for the first half from amongst their coaching staff. During the Kaeo pre-match team talk it was highlighted that he had a bit of a reputation for blowing the whistle for soft fouls and it was Stefano, again in the thick of the action, who made good use of this knowledge in around about the fifteenth minute. With minimal contact he flopped on the ground in the box and a penalty was awarded…

There is apparently no spot at this level so it was Kaeo’s Inti Tuberwann who was entrusted to pace out the 12 yards… But unfortunately this proved no advantage for the home side as Ross Utton blazed over.

The rest of the first half passed with lots of passion, chances at both ends, and a bit of fairly robust play that resulted in the odd splash of blood visible! Ultimately though, 1-0 was the score in favour of the visitors when the ref blew for half time.

The second half was heavily dominated by Kaeo as they threw everything, up to and including the kitchen sink, at the Kerikeri goal looking for an equaliser. But the visitors held firm, defending strongly and with vigour. Their keeper Henk Bertalink earned his man of the match award with some great saves. At least two Kaeo shots ricocheted off the woodwork and one was belted off the line by a last ditch defender. Simon Hart also earned his keep at the other end as Kerikeri surged forward on the counter attack forcing a couple or few sharp one-on-one saves from the stopper.

All seemed lost for Stefano’s team until time was all but up on the clock. But cometh the hour, cometh Kaeo’s Mauro Perreira. The Brazilian took a leaf out of Diego Maradona’s book with a ‘hand of God’ that went unnoticed by the second half ref (different from the first half bloke) and having knocked the ball down into no-man’s land between the keeper and the empty net, he threw himself into the shot, toed home the equaliser and collected the post with his face on his way into the goal himself!

Kaeo were ecstatic, Kerikeri were incredulous, but the ref waived away all protests and the goal stood.

There was still time for tempers to briefly boil over into a bit of pushing and shoving following an agricultural tackle deep in stoppage time but after players and supporters alike took a chill pill the game was over and everyone was all smiles.

It was a thoroughly well-deserved draw for Kaeo, despite the dubious circumstances! I wouldn’t have said that if it had been the other Inter though…

But despite the different Italian clubs we support, Stefano and I are kindred spirits in many respects. We both follow our passion for football in our own ways – him by starting his own Inter in Kaeo and me driving 550 kilometres in a day just to watch – and in a week and a half we will be utterly united in cheering for gli Azzurri in Euro 2016!

And if there’s one moral of this story it’s this – the world needs more people like Stefano Virgili!

Categories: Other NZ Federation Leagues

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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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