Tokoroa 1, Cambridge 4
Strathmore Park, Tokoroa, April 22 2017
In the 1960’s and 70’s, scores of Italians flocked to the Central North Island of New Zealand to work on the Tongariro power scheme. They lived in basic camps near each project, and a young man by the name of Alberico D’Andrea was their chef. When the projects were all completed, most of the Italians made for the nearest international airport to move on to the next adventure – somewhere where spaghetti doesn’t come in a tin no doubt. But Alberico opted to stay, and open an Italian restaurant in one of the unlikeliest places to find quality Italian food that I can think of – Tokoroa!
Like almost everyone with Italian blood, I tend to think with my stomach. So as the draw for the preliminary round of the Chatham Cup spluttered out of Twitter, catching sight of Tokoroa vs Cambridge made my mouth water – and not only at the football that was in prospect!
I have eaten Alberico’s once before, back in the days when I used to travel around a bit for my job, but it’s been a while and I have been waiting for an excuse like this to get back for a second helping of his generous (to say the least) pasta portions for quite some time.
And as for the football, at the opening stage of our national cup competition this was something of a glamour clash! No teams at NRFL level are taking part so one of the WaiBOP Premiership’s best sides, Cambridge, are the crème of the preliminary round crop in the Waikato at least. Facing my friends from John Kerkhof Park were Tokoroa AFC, from a tier below in the WaiBOP Championship. So effectively this was a battle between clubs from the fourth and fifth tiers of the New Zealand Football pyramid.
Before the game, someone from inside the Cambridge camp described the tie to me as a potential banana skin, and despite the final score it almost proved to be exactly that. The lower ranked side played above themselves and pushed their more fancied opponents hard on this beautiful sunny day, in the beautiful setting of Strathmore Park, watched by 50 or so human spectators and a seriously decent sized crew of very knowledgeable looking football aficionados of the bovine variety.
I do think it’s kind of cool that there are more cows in the background of my photos of this game than there are people in 99% of my football photos…
It took Cambridge 27 minutes of graft to get their opening goal, scored by captain Patrick Woodlock as he dropped to his knees to direct a low header goalwards from a corner that had escaped the attempted punch of the Tokoroa keeper. But just five minutes later the home side’s Connor Wood saw his shot bulge the auld onion bag to restore parity – a state of affairs that would be maintained until the clock almost ticked over the hour mark in the second half.
The half time talk from the Cambridge coaching staff must have had an impact though, because the candy canes looked a bit more assured in the second stanza. DJ Latham’s goal in the 59th minute broke the shackles and from that point on it seemed unlikely that Tokoroa had another comeback in them.
The floodgates opened in the 72nd minute when Sam Garmonsway netted a well taken goal and then Latham grabbed his second four minutes later to settle matters once and for all. The only remaining drama came with nine minutes to play when Tokoroa’s Keegan Willis received his second yellow card for kicking the ball away in frustration. A bit harsh perhaps but rules are rules…
As the cows wandered off over the hill behind us, obviously having seen enough, the referee blew the full time whistle and the best team on the day had won, even if the score flattered them a little.
But never mind all that. Obviously what you are really still reading this far down the page for is to hear all about how good dinner was.
My Alberico’s carbonara was yummy even though it wasn’t in the same league as the quintessential Roman dish would be when made the way it’s served in Italy. I can’t see the Tokoroa locals appreciating it prepared that way so I understand why it’s not. Regardless, the charming atmosphere, the friendly Neapolitan waitress who managed to remain professional despite being forced to look at my Roma shirt, and the sound of orders being barked around the kitchen in Italian all combined to send Gina and I home in high spirits not to mention with very full bellies!
Tasty Italian food matched with exciting calcio…
Viva la magica della coppa! (Long live the magic of the cup!)
Categories: NZ Chatham Cup
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/