New Zealand 2, Fiji 0
Westpac Stadium, Wellington, March 28 2017
[Special thanks to Cameron McIntosh (Photomac) for supplying all photos of this game.]
My employer sends me to Wellington at least four or five times a year and, as a general rule, these trips seem specially formulated to occur while there is no football on in our nation’s capital. If it’s A-League season the Phoenix are always playing away and when there is international football on you can bet it’s in Auckland when I am unavoidably out of town. Not this time though! At last I had a three day all expenses paid trip to New Zealand’s best football city when there was a World Cup qualifier in the offing! Huzzah!
So when our day’s work came to a close on Tuesday, a couple of football loving colleagues – one from Dunedin and one from Wellington (via Selhurst Park) – and I blew off the conference dinner and headed down to the stadium to hang out and watch a bit of footy together. It was a most excellent way to unwind for the evening.
And quite a few others shared that world view. A pleasing crowd of over 10,000 were there with us to watch a solid All Whites performance even without Leeds United’s in-form goalscoring machine Chris Wood.
Of course we all wanted to see him in action given all the headlines he’s been making in the UK, but his absence created a chance for us to marvel at somebody else. Instead of drooling over someone who plays in the English second tier we got to drool over someone who is going great guns in the Dutch first tier! It was a strong showing from former Waikato FC and now PEC Zwolle player – Te Puke’s own Ryan Thomas. His two goals were both excellent as was his general play – a pretty good trade for Wood if you ask me!
It was also great to see Phoenix player Roy Krishna rampaging around for Fiji. If they had eleven of him the All Whites would have struggled!
As the game drew to its conclusion, a few wisps of fog started drifting into the stadium and many of the people around us were gasping at the wonder of this. I didn’t think much of it given my Waikato upbringing. When I was a kid, it was foggy when you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. But I soon paid for my dismissiveness…
The next day it became painfully obvious very quickly that our chances of flying out as scheduled were infinitesimal. Alternative arrangements had to be made as hotels quadrupled their charges and still sold out. I was lucky enough to have a relative whose Aro Valley couch I was able to secure. And having sorted that out, I was also inundated with requests for dinner dates from various friends.
The best of these was a Twitter DM that came through from Patrick Barnes asking if I would like to be a guest on Yellow Fever’s podcast ‘Phoenix City’. It took me about a thousandth of a second to decide that this was something I would be happy to do even though I’m not sure they appreciated just how little I had seen of the football they were due to talk about…
I felt a bit useless as in-depth conversations took place on intricate details of various Phoenix and Team Wellington goals and spirited debates got down to the level of who’s right a pass was received from… And as for the games I HAD seen, not having the faintest idea how Jai Ingham performed vs Fiji and having to cast around for five minutes trying to remember who won the men’s NRFL last year (Central United – how could I forget?) made me realise that my medium is definitely the written word!
It was a lot of fun nonetheless and if you’d like to have a good laugh at me, you can listen to the podcast here: https://www.yellowfever.co.nz/podcasts
I finally made my Wellyexit at 4pm on Thursday, and when the plane touched down and we disembarked I briefly considered going full Pope and kissing the ground. I love Wellington but not enough to miss any football in Auckland this weekend!
Categories: All Whites
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: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/