[Eastern Suburbs asked me to contribute a regular match day programme column for the duration of their first season back in the national league football fray. My brief was to be “slightly controversial or provocative”. Half joking, I told them they could call the series ‘Enzo’s Rant’ and to my surprise they agreed! I will publish each one here the week after it has appeared in print. Here’s the 8th and final episode.]
If this piece seems a little bit distracted, it’s because as I write it I’m anxiously checking for Twitter updates. Hamilton Wanderers currently find themselves 1-0 down, ten minutes into a match against perennial national league lightweights Southern United in the first post-Christmas fixture of 2017. It’s only a couple of weeks since the Waikato’s latest football flag bearer dispatched Hawkes Bay United 6-4 on the same day the youth team won the National Youth League – arguably one of the most successful days in Waikato football history!
20 minutes now gone and, while I’ve been pondering what to write next, Wanderers have missed a penalty. Why do I get the feeling it’s just not going to be our day?
This is Waikato football fandom in a nutshell. From hero to zero in the blink of an eye.
I’m fairly certain that when this piece is eventually published, around the time of the last Eastern Suburbs home game, Wanderers will be well out of semi-final contention. Of course my confidence in that is helped by the fact that should something miraculous happen between now and then, you won’t be reading this because I will have done some hasty editing!
But the chances of me needing to do that are very slim. With just over half an hour gone it’s now 2-0 in Mosgiel.
Will I ever live to see a team from the province I grew up in win a senior title? It’s never happened before in the almost 50 year history of national league football and there’s not much evidence to support any confidence that it will happen anytime soon.
So “what’s the point?” is a perfectly legitimate question.
When the attributes needed to be successful in the Stirling Sports Premiership are money, money and more money, what hope is there for a province where we can’t even keep the same entity going at the top of the pyramid for longer than a couple of years? Fans just get used to Waikato United, Melville, Waikato FC, WaiBOP and now Wanderers, they build up an identity that people start to get in behind and then *poof!* it’s gone.
The second half gets underway aaaaaaand it’s 3-0.
We seem to be heading down a path towards pure promotion and relegation for the Stirling Sports Premiership. Teams that can’t pull their weight on the pitch will be gone, replaced by the next cab off the rank in the winter leagues via some kind of promotional playoff system. That’s an exciting prospect in a lot of ways, but it should also strike fear into the hearts of the provinces.
When you look at the winter leagues and you look at the poorer performing teams in the Stirling Sports Premeirship, there is a distinct possibility that in the future the National League could be “national” in name only – made up solely from clubs based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Is that healthy for the game? Maybe, but as a fan I can tell you I can’t see it being overly healthy for my interest levels…
Because, despite the fact that I sound a lot like Eeyore here, moaning about how the world just isn’t fair, the truth is I’m actually at peace with the Waikato’s place in the footballing world. And, the truth is, without the far away presence of this ever-changing constant of misery and suffering – I just wouldn’t be happy!
Only five minutes left in the game. Still 3-0. It probably won’t get any worse now…
At least I know that I will never have to suffer the terrifying horror of the ultimate football nightmare scenario that lives only in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind – a Club World Cup game between a Waikato team and Roma.
Full time. Southern United 4, Hamilton Wanderers 0.
So it’s ok, you’re off the hook. Don’t ever let the Waikato team win!!
Categories: NZ Men's National League
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/