With cup finals day looming large this coming Sunday, the time has come to sadly accept that another winter of football is almost at an end.
To mark this solemn occasion, I have compiled a collection of the eighteen images that I feel best sum up this, the seventh grassroots season that I have blogged about.
Without any further ado, here they are, in the order I took them…
1 – The (almost) Nonna Hug
My NRFL opening day was notable for a few things. Waiheke United’s statement of intent that they haven’t come this far just to make up the numbers, the Northern League’s first taste of La Banda, and FLARES!!! (I love flares – I bet you didn’t know that about me) But, for all that razzle dazzle, my pick is still Kelly Escholme celebrating his match winning goal in a manner reminiscent of Alessandro Florenzi’s famous Nonna hug!
2 – Ferns v Fellas
It was controversial to start with! Notice was late, it was said to be detrimental to the NRFL, it would overtax the players, and the standard of the AFF/NFF under 17 Boys Conference was thought too poor to be of any value. But from the first game onwards, the doubters were silenced. The Football Ferns Development Programme has been a success with the work put in by everyone involved really paying dividends in the form of improved performances when the players go back to their clubs. It still looks weird though…
3 – The Football Balcony
4 – Two Words
Speaking of the Football Ferns Development Programme… If you disagree with my above analysis of its merits, I only have two words to say to you – Katie and Rood. Here’s a snap of the FFDP player scoring a goal for Glenfield Rovers in April. Fast forward five months, and she’s now scoring her goals for Juventus.
5 – Face Save!
This shot from my Good Friday wander up the road to my local NRFL women’s team, Norwest United, does what it says on the tin.
6 – Cows and Pasta
The two sides of my heritage were both perfectly catered for on my road trip to Tokoroa! My sixth generation Waikato side got to hang out with some cows while my friends at Cambridge herded the locals out of the Chatham Cup. Then I got a lovely pasta dinner courtesy of famous Italian restauranteur Alberico D’Andrea.
7 – A True Blue Celebration
I always grumble to myself when goalscorers don’t have the wherewithal to celebrate facing the camera. I had no such cause for complaint on this day. He actually got closer than this, but after this frame he was literally too close for my lens to focus!
8 – Mouse Leap
I always marvel at how lucky we are in this country to see Football Ferns of the calibre we do simply by rocking up to our local parks. If I want to see the All White equivalent of Meikayla Moore play club football week in week out I would have to move to Minnesota and pay at the gate to watch Michael Boxall. Never mind what I would have to do to watch a male international defender from a country that sits 19th (as the Ferns do) in the men’s world rankings…
9 – Agony and Ecstasy
Glenfield Rovers v Birkenhead United. The most intense rivalry in New Zealand football. There can only be one winner. And for the loser, it’s always going to be a bitter pill to swallow – especially on your home ground and especially in the Chatham Cup.
10 – The Second to Last Laugh
Waiheke United at Onetangi Sports Park. It’s a feeling alright! Especially when you think you’ve just scored a trophy winning goal! Little did he know there would be horror at the other end just seconds later…
11 – Lighting up Ngongie
I had to include a picture of a flare somehow. Even though there was so much more to my amazing bus ride to Ngongotaha that this one shot can’t begin to do justice to.
12 – Important Commitments
New Zealand qualified for the FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup, to be held in France next year, by crushing all before them in the Oceania Under 19 Women’s Championships at Ngahue Reseve in July. As luck would have it, purely by coincidence, I had some annual leave booked for the week this tournament took place! That’s because it was also the week of my Civil Union anniversary… Luckily, I married an absolute gem and there were no serious objections to me catching a game or two… Or four…
13 – Rain
It’s hard to think of a picture that depicts my entire last few months watching football more profoundly than this shot from Samoa’s stellar performance in the last Oceania Under 19 Women’s Championship game I attended.
14 – Kids + Cup = GRIN
Give a kid a cup, and he or she will smile nonstop for a month!
15 – Making Do
Manukau City is always a club that’s made do. Made do without much money in the kitty, made do without flash equipment, made do with the worst pitch in the league until last season. And when their women’s first team won the AFF/NFF Women’s Championship a fortnight ago, they even made do without a real trophy!
16 – Swans Up!
Speaking of no trophy… I went to Becroft Park to watch Eastern Suburbs win one but these guys spoiled the party. On the bright side though, they gave me this shot as compensation! Yes, those are swans they are making with their arms.
17 – If New Zealand Football Grounds Were Neil Young Albums…
English Park would be After the Gold Rush, The Cake Tin would be Tonight’s the Night, David Farrington Park would be Ragged Glory, Te Puru Park would be On the Beach and North Harbour Stadium would be Everybody Knows this is Nowhere. Allen Hill Stadium would be Rust Never Sleeps, Onetangi Sports Park would be Le Noise, but only Kiwitea Street can be Harvest.
18 – Having a Ball
It’s been said that this shot from the Eastern Suburbs v Upper Hutt NZ Women’s Knockout Cup semi-final is my best photo of the year. I don’t know if I’d go that far but I do like it. It’s almost like a page out of a Richard Scarry book – with something different to think about every time I look at it. I don’t usually like shots with no ball in them, but for the purposes of finishing this post off it seems rather appropriate.
Because like I was all season, as the guy behind the camera, I was the one having a ball!
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/