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The Divine Ponytail

Bay Olympic 1, Bucklands Beach 8
Crum Park, Auckland, May 20 2017

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Once upon a time I went to watch a mate of mine play over 35s football at Crum Park in Green Bay. I blogged about it here.

Last week I noticed him talking about his team on Facebook and thought, “hmmmmm, it has been a couple of years since I saw Joe play, maybe I should make some time to do it again!”

Then I looked up exactly how long it’s been and couldn’t believe it was over FIVE YEARS AGO!!!

That’s plain ridiculous. It’s been so long that the Bay Olympic ‘Westies’ have now outgrown over 35s and instead find themselves in AFF’s Over 40 Division 3 Masters competition. There are more lowly levels of organised football in this country but no more than one or two! These are grassroots so deep you just about need to go fracking to find them…

It was good though.

Before the game one or two of the Bay Olympic players were on their phones madly trying to get in touch with friends who might like a game – with only ten players in total amongst those who had turned up, they were looking down the barrel of a loooooong 90 minutes for old bodies.

I moved as far away from them as possible and made myself look busy fiddling with my camera settings. I was not keen to be asked to pull on a pair of boots!!

But once the game got underway, I was almost regretting not putting my hand up. Five years ago the level looked way too good for me but in 2017 I felt like the gap had closed a reasonable amount to the point where I might only be the second or third worst player out there and it looked like fun!

The Bucklands Beach ‘Thunderbirds’ were obviously taking things moderately seriously. I was told they came third in Division 2 last year and wanted to drop down a level this season to win some silverware – because there are always glory hunters in football! Up until today they had won six from six, scoring five goals per game on average. So the second from bottom Westies were always going to be facing an uphill task on this occasion. But despite that they have much to be proud of.

The biggest win of the season for the Thunderbirds before today was a 9-1 demolition of Ellerslie’s ‘Mustangs’ – a team that sits ahead of Bay Olympic on the table – so losing 8-1 is no disgrace. They can also take pride in not allowing Bucklands Beach a clean sheet, which is something they have not achieved yet all season. This blemish on their otherwise perfect record must be something they would quite like to polish out.

And the visitors from the East could easily have conceded more in this game. The Westies spurned a couple of reasonable chances including missed a penalty…

As I was walking to my car after the game I overheard the player who made the illegal tackle saying “yeah I thought I’d flatten him because I knew there was no way they’d score from the spot!” I had to smile. The lower the step on the football pyramid we occupy the taller the tales perhaps.

I wasn’t smiling for long though. Because something about watching lower level football than usual caused me to make a rookie mistake myself and leave the lights on in my car! So I got the luxury of an extra hour or so in the Crum Park car park, waiting for the AA to come and rescue me, to ponder my afternoon.

I spent most of it thinking about a bunch of guys out there just enjoying their football. None of them were Totti or Baggio (even if Joe has an excellent Divine Ponytail), but whatever their ability they can all still have a kick about at 40, 50 and beyond enjoying our beautiful game in its purest form.

Quite refreshing to watch. I should do that more often.

Categories: Other NZ Federation Leagues

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Enzo Giordani

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/

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