Football, the game, is about the result. It’s about striving to get the win, earn the points needed or desired. There’s a lot of complication beyond that, obviously, with home and away legs, goal difference and the various computations regarding league positions, promotion and relegation. But the game itself is very much played in the now.
Wins are savoured, briefly, before the looming spectre of the next game appears. Losses too, can be bitterly felt, but the joy of the game is that there’s always another one. Another game, another season, another chance to put right what was wrong, extend a streak, ruin somebody else’s day.
For supporters, though we undoubtedly experience that same fleeting joy or despair, there’s also the long game – the layering of season upon season, the recollection of moments which may not make the highlight reel but stick in your mind long after all the players involved have retired.
It’s a badge of pride too. One of the most regular insults thrown between teams is that the opponent is plastic, or worse, hasn’t got any history. In a part of the world where franchised clubs make up both the professional A League and most of the semi-pro ISPS Handa Premiership, even a decade in, the history is only just really starting to kick in.
In some ways it has been neglected by New Zealand Football. Who’s the all-time top scorer in the NZFC? Are there any players currently in the league who are getting close to that record? Come on, there’s a story there.
Who is the Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season for the league, right now? The clubs themselves run their own awards, and Jeremy Ruane keeps the most meticulous records of the NZ game over at Ultimate NZ Soccer.
In 2014 the ‘Team Of The Decade’ was announced, and a bloody good one it was too – but it’s not beyond NZF to organise a team of the season, is it?
Perhaps it is.
At least we can look back at 2015 – 16 and 2016 – 17 on YouTube, with highlights of both seasons still available on Sky’s channel. There’s a wider selection of classic NZFC available too via Said Milton’s highlights packages which feature some games from nearly a decade back.
What nostalgia is, I guess, is a remembering of old stories and the pursuit of records. With the yawning gap between each season, it seems like it takes a few games to get the National League run in, by which time it’s Christmas and then suddenly there’s only a few games left. A little bit of continuity, stories that can last across seasons, wouldn’t be too bad.
It’s not hard to imagine the NZFC acquiring the patina of time, nostalgia for summers spent drinking on the decking at Bill McKinlay, in the shade of the west bank at Kiwitea or within sausage sizzle scent down at Dave Farrington.
I ran into a friend from Kiwitea St on Sunday. Their first words to me, “Do you know when the season starts again?”. There’s longing, no doubt, for the ISPS Handa Premiership to get going. If, I guess, for no other reason than it means that summer is on its way once again.
Categories: NZ Men's National League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.