On Sunday Andrew Voerman, who is New Zealand’s premier football writer in my opinion, tweeted his top ten favourite games he’s seen live this year. They say that good writers borrow from other writers and great writers steal from them outright – it’s in that spirit that I thought I’d reach for the stars by nicking Andrew’s idea and doing it myself.
It’s no easy task comparing football games. What should the criteria be? Does the score have to be close for a game to be good, does there have to be late drama, are upsets better than expected victories regardless of how the day was won, does style of play outweigh other undoubtedly important factors like did I get rained on that day?
All of these criteria obviously had to be listed, carefully weighted, and each game evaluated against them using algorithms and trigonometry and shit.
But I can’t do any of that because I only managed 18% in School Certificate Maths so I just went with my gut and picked the ten games that gave me a skip in my step as I walked back to the car…
Waitakere United 4, Auckland City 1
Trusts Stadium, Auckland, February 26 2017
There’s nothing like a good tanty to fuel a local derby and this game was firing on hydrogen. Auckland City imploded in ways that I never would have imagined possible from this routinely professional outfit. Their complete meltdown peaked with Fabrizio Tavano getting sent off and subsequently led to three unanswered goals from the unlikely victors – who never would have been in it if their opponents had held their nerve.
Bay Olympic 1, Bucklands Beach 8
Crum Park, Auckland, May 20 2017
Football doesn’t have to be high level to put a smile on your face – which is good, because there’s not much more low level than the AFF over 40’s division 3! Sometimes getting along to fixtures like this are great for reminding you what the game is really about though. In its purest form, football is not about temporarily holding onto silver trinkets. It’s about having fun with your mates.
Mount Albert Ponsonby 3, Metro 2
Anderson Park, Auckland, April 8 2017
3-2 is the ideal final score for a game of football. How many boring 3-2 games have you seen? As Scribe would no doubt say if he was a football fan – not many, if any. If you’ve seen a 3-2 game you’ve seen goals but not enough to cheapen their worth, you’ve probably seen at least one comeback and whether your team won or lost you’ve no doubt sweated on the outcome right up until the final whistle. This local derby had all of that AND char grilled buffalo wings!
Ngongotaha 0, Waiheke 7
Stembridge Road, Ngongotaha, July 8 2017
This game was well and truly about the journey as well as the destination.
I met Waiheke United players and staff as they got off the downtown ferry, already in fine voice, and travelled with them on the team bus to the outskirts of Rotorua – where they dispatched their opposition and sang all the way home as well. It was an experience that will likely live on as one of my all-time great football memories until the day I slip this mortal coil.
Auckland 3, Northern 2
Keith Hay Park, Auckland, November 26 2017
Another 3-2 game and more comebacks as both sides shook off the absence of their Ferns, who were touring Thailand, to produce a cracker of a virtual quarter final. Auckland needed to win to leapfrog their local National Women’s League rivals, and they looked gone when they blew a two goal lead and had to endure Northern celebrating an equaliser for all it was worth deep into injury time. But then deep, deep, deep into injury time they pulled a rabbit out of their hats – and went on to win the league.
Forrest Hill Milford 2, Eastern Suburbs 2
Becroft Park, Auckland, August 18 2017
Eastern Suburbs had a simple task. Beat sixth place Forrest Hill Milford, who they defeated 5-2 in the reverse fixture, and win the Northern League. At half time, with the score at 2-0, the trophy might as well have been at the engravers. Nobody expected a choke that was up there with the best of them! But that’s what we got. Swans up!
New Zealand 6, Samoa 0
Ngahue Reserve, Auckland, July 21 2017
What could possibly be good about a six goal hiding in the OFC Under 19 Women’s Championships that was played in some of the worst conditions I have ever watched football in? Despite getting buffeted by high winds, rained and hailed on, it was a privilege to see Samoa play out of their skins to keep the score down to about half of what it was expected to be. And it was a joy to see how much it meant to them when the final whistle blew. For them, they won their tournament.
Football Ferns Development 4, Birkenhead United 4
North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, April 2 2017
“Come on, they can’t handle it!!” – was the quote of the day from one of the Birko boys after they had drawn their side level at 3-3 against the Football Ferns Development Team, who were controversially competing in the AFF/NFF Under 17 Boys’ Conference for the first time. But any claims that Tony Readings and Gareth Turnbull had selected the wrong level of boys’ teams to pit our elite female players against were silenced as those in attendance at this game were treated to an absolute cracker!
Cambridge 3, Waikato Unicol 2
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, July 15 2017
Cambridge showed themselves to be slow starters in more ways than one in 2017. As well as the sizable head start they gave Waikato Unicol on the WaiBOP Premiership points table, they also conceded in the third minute of each half in this match. With the score at 2-2, and time running out on the clock, they still required something special to get their promotion campaign out of neutral. It came when a free kick was nodded home with just seven minutes left to play.
And the rest is history. One of my absolute favourite places to watch football will be gracing the NRFL in 2018 and I was there to witness the spark that made it possible.
Waiheke 2, Fencibles 2
Onetangi Sports Park, Waiheke Island, June 17 2017
Two unbeaten teams went at each other hammer and tongs for 90 minutes and beyond in this NRFL Division 2 classic. And they produced a game packed with drama and significance, all the while serenaded by the musical cacophony and light show that La Banda del Pipazo are now rightly famous for.
Waiheke needed a win to keep in touch with the league leaders and everyone thought they’d done it when they went 2-1 up with just three minutes left in the 90. But Matt Chant had other plans. He levelled the scores with literally the last kick of the game and ran over to the grass embankment to celebrate his side’s 2-2 victory right in front of La Banda – much to their chagrin.
While many of the above games produced drama, excitement and season defining plot twists, what really set this one apart was atmosphere. Atmosphere and flares… More of those things next year pretty please!
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.