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Albany’s just All White with me

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I don’t mind North Harbour Stadium.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t rate it amongst my favourite stadia in the world – not by a long way. But it’s not so bad, is it?

“Yeah, but hang on a minute Giordani! You turn up there with your fancy press pass, get yourself a park right by the entrance, pull a lanyard over your head, waltz in straight past the security guards and plonk yourself down in the media tribune right on halfway! Of course YOU don’t mind it! You are the 1%!!”

Ouch.

Ok, yeah, sometimes that’s true…

Alright then. How about this…

The All Whites are playing New Caledonia there. It’s their first game in New Zealand since May 2014, it’s coach Anthony Hudson’s first ever game on home soil, and they are coming off great performances vs Mexico and the USA. It’s the opening game of our nation’s qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Huge game. People are converging on Albany from all over the country. It should be a good sized crowd.

I won’t ask NZF for media accreditation. I’ll just go and watch wherever I can get a seat. I’ll take Gina with me, and just to make things interesting I won’t pre-purchase our tickets. We’ll just head off an hour before the game and take our chances. Then we’ll see if I still enjoy myself.

So, at around 2pm, off we set. One of us was appropriately dressed, the other was Gina.

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It usually takes about half an hour to get to North Harbour Stadium from our home in Swanson, and this trip was no different.

Parking is always a challenge there. You’re not only competing with fellow stadium goers but you’re also up against shoppers, movie goers and regular patrons of the various cafes and pubs dotted around this recently developed satellite town centre.

We drove around in a big loop, following a range of other dithering drivers looking for somewhere to squeeze in, and ended up where we should have gone first – the overflow carparks on Oteha Valley Road. The farthest one is a 5-10 minute walk from our destination. It would have been helpful if there had been signage directing football fans to them as we got off the motorway but we got there all the same in the end.

Parking was free – you don’t get free parking that close to many other stadia for events like this! I note too that if we had been more organised and decided to take public transport, that would have also been free along with pre-purchased match tickets.

Frustration level: Two out of ten – mainly due to the ditherers.

After a brisk stroll, we got to the ticket booths. There was a bit of a queue but it’s not toooo long although it is quite slow moving – more ditherers…

“Ahhhhhhhhh can I have… where shall we sit Wayne? Ahhhhhhhhhh maybe, hmmmmmmmm I dunno I guess we’ll have silver tickets…. How many of us are there again?” Counts out on fingers “one, two, three…”

By the time we got to the window to purchase our tickets, the length of the queue had grown tenfold.

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I’m glad we got there when we did or goodness knows how long we would have waited.

And that’s not the end of it. Once you’ve navigated that there was another big logjam of people with tickets trying to get through the gate past the bag searches.

As it was, when we first joined the queue with 20 minutes to go until kickoff, I estimated we’d miss the first ten minutes or so of the game and had already mentally adjusted to the fact. However by the time we had our tickets, got through the logjam, made it into the stadium and had found our seats, we had missed exactly two minutes and five seconds of the game.

Frustration level: Three out of ten – with a crowd of only 8,000 things could have been smoother, that’s for sure, but when you turn up to a game like this with no tickets you have to expect some inconvenience!

“It was expensive, that’s all I’m saying!”

The spectators seated in the row behind us were a barrel of laughs…

“Don’t you think it’s expensive? $80!! What do we get for $80?? SIT DOWN TOBY, the man behind you wants to be able to see. DON’T KICK THE SEAT IN FRONT! Watch the All Whites….

…It’s a lot of money, is all I’m saying…”

Coincidentally, Gina and I also paid $82 for our two hours of entertainment including a programme, two punnets of chips, a bottle of water and a bottle of Coke. That is a little bit steep. Silver tickets at $29 apiece – fair enough I suppose given the cost of flying players in from all over the world but why do they insult our intelligence by making it $29 and not $30? I still round it up in my head…

The $2 programme was good value but the shitty chips plus two drinks for $22…

Argh, that’s all stadiums though innit…

Frustration level: Three out of ten – we did spend a lot of money and it was only New Caledonia. To have felt like we really got our money’s worth after spending $82 I probably would have liked wine and cheese… And maybe a glimpse of Totti… But on this occasion Marco Rojas would have to do.

And he did pretty well! He really is a class above and showed just how good coming back from Europe has been for him. And we had a great view of both of his goals as well as the overall win for the home team from high above the action on the top tier!

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The only downside of our position was the fact that there weren’t a lot of people up there so while we heard the roar when the All Whites scored, the only thing that made us feel like we were part of a crowd were our friends behind us…

“So we’re in the World Cup now!

WHAAAT??? What do you mean? You said it was a qualifier!!! Either you’re in or you’re out! SIT DOWN TOBY!!!! Do that to your father. Hit your father!!”

Quite a few people left before full time, but not us real fans! Only when the ref let out his three blasts of the whistle did we file out with the rest of the teeming masses. It only took us ten to fifteen minutes to get back to the car, and another ten minutes to get back on the motorway.

Frustration level: Zero out of ten – mainly due to the relief of escaping the running commentary from behind us!

It was just an average afternoon at a football game in a 20,000 seat stadium. Not my favourite way to consume the game. Give me a muddy sideline and two below average NRFL Division Two teams any day. But it wasn’t awful!

My position stands. I don’t mind North Harbour Stadium. It’s not without its flaws, but nonetheless it’s nowhere near as bad as its reputation.

Categories: All Whites

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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/

2 replies

  1. Nice read Enzo.

    Brought back memories of my very first visit there, when North Harbour Stadium was new, in 1997, as captured in the Sitter fanzine reports in the July 1997 edition linked below. And some things haven’t changed, almost 20 years on.

  2. Haha thanks for posting that Bruce! Can definitely see the parallels. One simple design flaw that would have made a lot of people’s afternoons run smoother would be the ability to buy your ticket at a turnstile and go straight in. The double queuing is unnecessary and just added pressure to the ticket scanners at the gate. I also think stadia all over the country need to look at their food offerings. It’s not acceptable to keep charging outrageous prices for utter shit. If you want people to come to watch international football it has to be better than the experience you can have at home or in a pub.

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