By Gordon Watson
Last nights All Whites game in New Caledonia ended in a slightly frustrating draw for Anthony Hudson’s men. Here’s Sky’s match commentator, Gordon Watson, on what he took away from his time in Kone.
New Caledonia – Credit where its due, they backed up what they did in Auckland, in Kone. They’re a decent side, have good combination play in wide positions and in Cesar Zeoula and Georges Gope Fenepej, two very useful professional players. New Caledonia can rely on six or seven decent performances from individuals and they were worth their point. They should, by now, have earned some level of respect for performances and results against New Zealand over the past eight years – they have improved, to say otherwise is a bit uncharitable.
New Zealand – If Monty Patterson scores that chance teed up by Andrew Durante, its a different game. Patterson missed and the pendulum swung back the way of the home side. Durante had a very good game, so too did Michael Boxall on his return from suspension. The All Whites haven’t conceded a goal in open play to a Pacific team since Zeoula netted in Dunedin in 2013. Thats astonishing. Anthony Hudson has made this team tough to unprise and defeat. Bill Tuiloma’s goal line clearance was utterly astonishing. Like Patterson, if Zeoula scores, the game changes – New Zealand have to chase a game for the first time in this campaign. It would’ve posed a very interesting challenge. On they roll.
The Referee – George Time was under pressure from the word go given he’d only officiated at one international match that I could find since the Nadi v Kiwi OFC Champions League boilover at QBE Stadium. Norbert Hauata (Tahiti) and Kader Zitouni (Tahiti) had handled the previous four clashes between New Caledonia and New Zealand, so it was a tough assignment with so much at stake for the competitors. The key decision he got right was Kai’s red card but he let a few too many challenges go inside the first 20 minutes and then after the restart.
Time’s reaction and decision-making process was very deliberate (incident-watch-check AR-think-decision) which translated to the players as ponderous and that understandably lends itself to frustration. They want to see snappy, chop-chop, decisive decisions made crisply. Quite right. But that said, in the context and setting, I’d rather he did deliberate and get it mostly right than feel pressured by players to come up with a decision – any decision – and get it wrong. Thats not a good habit to get in to, players then sense they can get decisions off an official.
Kone – a bit said on social media about playing this game “in the middle of nowhere” which I find irritating. New Caledonia more than entitled to play this game anywhere they see fit as long as the venue could handle it. Taking the game to the provinces was a good move for them for a variety of football and non-football reasons. The problems – when you have a boutique venue and want to showcase a big community event, its very easy to overlook housekeeping items like power loading, presence of television.
The weather also caused a short in the main stand which is why we lost coverage temporarily. Let’s be honest, each country has to grow the game the best they can. Remember, New Zealand took New Caledonia down to Dunedin for World Cup Qualifier in 2013. It finished 2-1 to the All Whites thanks to a Tommy Smith winner, late on, and has a long history of taking games to Napier, Mount Maunganui, Palmerston North – Dynamo Minsk, Werder Bremen, Korea Republic. Pot, kettle, etc.
The Nickel industry is the main source of jobs in Kone and with the global price plummeting, so too have the jobs. That means unemployment is up along with the cost of living. Bringing the game to Kone, to put a smile on a few faces can hardly be a bad thing after 65 years of New Caledonia v New Zealand games being played in Noumea?
The broadcast – By far one of the toughest calls I’ve ever had to make – no monitor, no script, occasional irregular replays, no director, no comms to Sky Sport, language barrier with host broadcaster, no desk space, no chairs, obstructed view. You can make all the notes in the world, script flowery turns of phrase and stockpile your statistics, but it goes out the window jumping through hoops blindly.
All that said, from a personal perspective its churlish to complain, any opportunity to commentate a football match has to be cherished, so you do your best and crack on.
Sound – Another issue. Very difficult to do a sound test and we’re at the behest of the host broadcaster. Any confusion between my voice and Fred’s is maybe down to this technical issue. We were also sat right to next to the main camera position and our French commentary colleagues making for a tight, noisy, work space. At least it was dry-ish though, Fred’s not been so lucky recently.
Commentators – The host broadcaster was NC1 TV who had their own commentators led by Romain Painbeni. Fred and I were hired by OFC TV to provide the English commentary. Sky Sport have us both down for the Stirling Sports Premiership game at Eastern Suburbs AFC on Saturday.
Categories: All Whites
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.