Waiheke United 8, Kaeo Inter 1
Onetangi Sports Park, Waiheke Island, September 30 2017
I was supposed to be on a break. It was right plonk in the middle of ITBOTN’s women’s kōrero, a time when I was supposed to take a month off, spend time with my partner, and recharge the batteries before the summer season kicked into gear.
Then I heard that my dear friend Stefano Virgili was bringing his Kaeo Inter team down to face Waiheke United at Onetangi Sports Park…
The conversation went something like this…
“You know that break from football I promised to take?”
*Eye roll* “Yes.”
“Well, we could have some nice quality time together over on Waiheke. Nice day out. And maybe take in a game while we’re there but it wouldn’t be a football trip really. More a nice, relaxing…”
So I unilaterally agreed that we would meet Stefano and his lads at the departure point of the Half Moon Bay car ferry.
Awaiting our departure on the ‘SeaLink’ was a great chance to catch up with my Italian mate and get fully briefed about all his latest battles with the footballing authorities – since I saw him last there have been refereeing calamities, bad blood with neighbouring clubs and an unjust cup disqualification. All the kind of stuff that adds texture and makes lower league football great!
I do have a confession to make though – I may have given away the game plan. I was told on the ferry that a bit of catenaccio may be on the cards. When I saw some of my Waiheke friends upon arrival at the ground they asked me what they should expect from the Italian inspired side. I grinned and said “catenaccio” which drew a good belly laugh!
But then I felt really guilty just before kick-off, when emanating out of the team huddle came the word catenaccio again followed by more hysterical laughter…
One day everyone will cotton on to the fact that I have a very big mouth and when that happens I’ll quite deservedly never hear any gossip ever again.
Not that it would have made a lot of difference. Waiheke were just younger, quicker and used to operating at a much higher level. But the difference didn’t necessarily look like the four rungs or 38 league places that Northland Division 2 and NRFL Division 2 are separated by.
When you consider that Waiheke defeated two of their own Northern League rivals, Ngongotaha and Papatoetoe, 7-0 each this year and they also smashed Te Atatu 7-1 in the course of a season when they only lost once – in that context a seven goal defeat for the Nerazzurri here was no disgrace whatsoever.
The visitors created a few chances and deserved their first half penalty. A super respectable 3-1 half time score blew out a bit towards the end as older bodies tired but hey, winning isn’t everything in an end of season friendly!
Afterwards, Stefano said it was all about showing respect to a great club, seeing how these mad Argies do things and how much of it mad Italians might be able to emulate in the far North. And that’s great. The more clubs who take the learning approach rather than the more traditional spiteful New Zealand attitude towards those doing things better than we are, the better our game will become.
After giving up on standing out in the cold wind on the top deck of SeaLink, looking for orcas to photograph on the way back, I was able to chat to Stefano about the next time I’ll be seeing him for a good old football blogging escapade!
For once I’ll keep my big mouth shut on what that is, but it involves a world first…
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/