Waitemata 4, Hibiscus Coast 1
McLeod Park, Auckland, April 25 2017
I chose to spend my ANZAC afternoon at this NRFL Division One bottom half clash between Waitemata and Hibiscus Coast for one main reason. Before this game there were just two Northern League clubs left on my ‘sins of omission’ list – places where I am yet to attend a match. They were McLeod Park and Ngongotaha’s Stembridge Road.
The main reason I haven’t seen a Waitemata home game before now is because they play most of them under lights, which makes it nearly impossible for me to get usable photos. So when I saw that they had a 3pm kick off on this occasion, I immediately put a circle around the fixture. If I had spurned this opportunity there may not have been another one.
But having said that, there was much to look forward to. I have been to the place before as part of my old ‘State of the Nation’ pre-season pitch inspections and even on that one fleeting visit on a not particularly nice day, McLeod Park struck me as a beautiful little venue. The spacious clubrooms have a balcony with harbour views over the mangroves beyond the football pitch. And there is also the multi award winning match day programme to sample! It’s truly worth a visit here for those two things each in isolation.
The first half of the game I was here to witness was a good watch. The visitors snatched the lead in just the tenth minute with a very nice Julian Stevenson strike from the left hand side of the penalty area across the face and in at the far post. Waitemata’s eventual equaliser wasn’t anywhere near as pretty but it was deserved none the less. Right on the stroke of half time Hamish Mackay hit one that the keeper seemed to have under control right up to the point where he turned out not to and it was fumbled into his own net.
Into the second half and Waitemata should have grabbed the lead around five minutes after the restart when a header from close range was somehow nodded over. But as the game ticked over the hour mark the home side’s breakthrough came via Ryan Rust and just as 1-1 was a fair reflection of the first half in my mind, a 2-1 lead to Waitemata was also a fair reflection of the second stanza to that point.
But then, shortly after that goal, came the unfortunate incident that gives this post its title. Referee Ben Hill awarded a free kick to Hibiscus Coast in an attacking position close to my vantage point at the northern end and it came, clear as day from a spectator over by the Waitemata dugout – “you’re a homo ref”. I chose to pretend I didn’t hear it. But then it came a second time – “you’re a homo ref!” And a third: “you’re a homo ref!!!!” Then he obviously didn’t think he had been properly appreciated for his Noel Cowardesque wit the first, second or third times so we got a fourth encore with the volume turned up to full – “YOU’RE A HOMO REF!!!!!”.
Now, I’m sorry but from that point on I really didn’t give a flying toss about the rest of the match.
If there are two things I really hate at football they are abuse of match officials and racist, sexist or homophobic insults so when I hear these things I will call them out. We have done it before and we will do it again because it’s 2017 and there’s no place for it in the game I love.
If clubs don’t stamp this kind of thing out we will name, shame and embarrass them. I know they can’t always control what their fans do but this guy acted like an egg not once but four times surrounded by others and from where I was sitting I didn’t see anyone tell him to STFU.
This was my first ever game at McLeod Park and it’s also likely to be my last unless they sort it out.
If they want a photo of the guy I am happy to supply one.
And if anyone wants to respectfully debate the incident or my reaction to it in the comments, here or on my social media, be my guest but any nastiness will be deleted without warning. I’m not in the mood to take any shit on this.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Division 1
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.