Many of us afficienados like to watch football, any football whether it on the telly or any sort of live game. I do have a penchant for visiting obscure, scruffy, lowbrow football venues, (being rather scruffy and lowbrow myself). I’m a bit like my mate Dale, who confesses to being compelled to stop and watch any football game he happens to pass, even a kick around between a bunch of street kids. I fully understand that.
Thus I’ve visited many small towns for a football fix. But I must say Thames, that gold town nestling in the crotch of the Coromandel has never, to my knowledge, actually been known as a place with any sort of serious football pedigree. Ok, Auckland City’s Alfie Rogers hails from the region and I’m sure Codwainer Bull has some ancient stats on any past Thames glories, if there are any. Anyway I have never visited the town for any reason other than buying camping provisions or having lunch.
However this week my stepson, Jason, had a high school knockout game for Hamilton Boys High away to the Thames High first (read ‘only’) eleven. Editor Enzo agreed we have very little coverage of school football so I sharpened my pencil (figuratively), donned my new BOTN shirt (literally) before firing up the Batmobile, chucking Jason in the back and heading northeast. Trina acting as navigator was in the front.
We were running a bit late. Why? I had to reluctantly switch off the telly before leaving. Leicester were playing Arsenal in the Premiership season opening fixture and were leading 3-2 at the time with only 10 to go. Park the bus, I thought, as I slowly backed out the door. Jason helpfully kept me abreast of the action as we drove toward Thames. “3-3” grr! “4-3” “who too?” “Arsenal” f*#*! Final score, 4-3, the usual away loss. Ah well at least I had two-goal Jamie Vardy in my fantasy team.
At Thames the boys shivered in the blustery wind as they tried to warm up at Danby Field next to the Goldfields shopping centre. Trina and I took a quick shufty at the surroundings, a shabby looking pavillon thing adjoining a rough paddock with rusty goals at each end. It was no Wembley, or even Porritt for that matter. I loved it at first sight.
But the wind grew colder, we looked at each other, then decided to scarper into town to get a hot coffee. The town was packed with shoppers and a market was in progress. Parking was at a premium but we found one at ‘Cafe Melbourne’ where they served a decent espresso, before heading back to watch the match
This was a knockout cup quarterfinal and both teams were from the lower reaches of the Waikato schoolboy Association. Jason’s team is basically a bunch of mates who play socially although with a good skill level. They were leading their division unbeaten and the Thames team were also riding high, albeit a division down. Now the thing to realise about schoolboy football in the Waikato, is that there is no real interest in who wins the various leagues and cups. The results are autumn leaves that fly away like a schoolboy immediately forgetting his Shakespeare once a school day has finished. It’s mainly about participating and comradeship.
The pitch and a strong northerly wind swiftly diffused any differences in skills between the teams and despite some good chances neither side look likely to score, until the Thames team knocked one in, rather against the run of play. They did have the wind at their backs this half and the Boys High city boys were finding the farm-paddock type surface a little difficult.
I must mention the ref, a local woman. She seemed to have a rudimentary understanding of the rules but blew her whistle too often, often for fairly innocuous challenges.
However at this level it’s not for me to criticise refs too harshly. I was intending to mention her positively in this report so at half time I tried to take a snap of her. She berated me for taking her photo and demanded it was “deleted at once!” I explained I was just impressed that a lady was reffing the guys and appreciated it’s a thankless task. She explained aggressively that she was trying to keep the game from “going out of control”. Anyway I calmed her down but she didn’t still want her photo taken, despite my innocuous intentions.
Peter Dowd, the coach of the Hamilton team, was a more placid figure as he encouraged the boys at half time. He is a good coach who tends to praise more than criticise and they respond well to it. The ideal schoolboy coach in my opinion, he is a calm head and keeps it all in perspective.
The second-half gave the Boys High team the advantage of the wind and they spent most the time on attack. However most shots whizzed over the bar or straight to the goalie. It was that kind of game. Just as it is looking likely that an upset was on the cards, a Thames player up-ended one of the Hamilton boys in the box and the ref immediately pointed to the spot. On checking my video replay it seems a clear cut penalty, despite the regulation protests from the home punters. Liam, the team’s top scorer, stepped up to take the kick (none of the surnames of these kids are known to me: Jason refers to them all just as Ben, Jack, Ben, Darren, Sante, Mason, Nick etc) Liam’s well struck shot snuck the ball just inside the post to make it 1-1.
The home goalie, a kid called Matt, had to retire hurt not long after that. He had played a decent game too. The press-ganged substitute keepe did ok though and the game eventually ended at 1-1. So extra time was applied, 10 minutes each way. The Hamilton team swiftly scored their second goal: ahem, I actually missed it while taking a phone call, but it was one of the Bens, set up by the other Ben apparently.
That was to be the final score but not before the Boys high goalie, Sante, had tipped over a long range free kick. That was it and the home team trooped off as galant losers. Here are a few videos highlights
The Boys High captain, Nick, thanked the home team over pizzas, post game, and said it was “his favourite game of the season.” Probably as no other team had laid on pizzas for these boys before.
I asked Thames coach, Gary for a comment. He praised his side’s endeavour. “It is hard at a small country school. We had a few international students but they are gone now. We only have one team here. It’s not always easy .” I said I thought they did ok. Peter Dowd agreed. “They had a very good midfield.” He was happy for his charges to have a win, narrow though it was.
Gary spotted my Leicester City jacket. How did this morning’s game go he asked innocently. He turned out to be an Arsenal fan. He grinned as we left.
Then it was back into the car for a pork and watercress pie at nearby Turua then straight back to Hamilton, “without stopping” as Trina ordered. Yep. Unless we spotted another football game on the way, of course.
Categories: NZ School Football
Rod de Lisle
Waikato based follower of Leicester, Hamilton Wanderers, Allwhites and Phoenix, roughly in that order. Underdogs all. I pen stuff that I feel I'd like to read myself but there's no accounting for taste, eh? Some of my opinions occasionally may be factually correct, sorry about that.