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Fraternising with the enemy

Waitakere United 1, Canterbury United Dragons 1
Trusts Stadium, Auckland, January 14 2017

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This was my third men’s national league football game since the 2017/18 season began, and it was also my third Waitakere United game of the summer. Is it time to admit I’ve got a problem? They say it’s the first step towards recovery after all…

It’s not like I can credibly continue to hide behind my love of coffee. I’ve been making no secret of the fact that I’ve been trying to win one of the coffee machines that the Westy club gives away as spot prizes. But, of the three games I’ve attended, two of them have been away from Trusts Stadium at coffee free venues – unless you like tuck-shop instant – so there goes that excuse.

And it’s not just the fact that I’m going to Waitak games that has me so worried about the direction in which my life is heading. It’s also the fact that I feel compelled to admit that I’m sorta kinda mumble mumble enjoying watching them play and… and… I’m…

Deep breaths…

(I can’t even believe I’m putting this in writing)

…willing them on…

Some might say it’s about bloody time. They are my local team after all. Shouldn’t everyone back their local side? Isn’t that what rivalism is supposed to be based on?

But instead most who know me will probably be reading this and reacting somewhere on a spectrum between increased concern for my health and hastily organising an intervention. Liking Waitakere is not something you do when your first love is Waikato football. They are, simply put, the enemy.

And even if they weren’t, they aren’t exactly the most popular kids in class regardless. Not even in their own community.

Looking at the crowd at Trusts yesterday, the turnout was pretty dire – 150 people was one estimate. So if I had carried on disliking them, it’s not like I’d be on my own. But, the thing is, psychologically, this is probably part of why they are appealing to me a little bit at the moment…

I’ve never been one to flow with the current and I’m also terrible at sharing. I like having the things I love all to myself. And with Waitakere United, I can be in an exclusive club of just 150 hardy souls who will quite happily turn up to watch them draw 1-1 with Canterbury United on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Then there’s the team itself, which is a collection of interesting personalities – loveable rogues some might say – considered by many observers to be quite physical (which tends to be a polite way of saying dirty).

Their games are certainly never dull from my point of view, whatever you might think of the style of football. I find them fun to watch.

And the other endearing thing I’ve noticed, while taking photos from up close, is the players aren’t afraid to give each other a good old fashioned bollocking when things aren’t going well.

Comparing them to the Dutch national team for internal squabbles would be exaggerating a little. Ok, it would be exaggerating a LOT. But still, trying to picture which Waitakere player most resembles Arjen Robben and which is Wesley Sneijder only adds to the fun.

On top of all of that, in terms of potential, they seem to provide just the right mix of hope and despair to make them a perfect fit for me really.

My home town club is well out of playoff contention. So rather than feel compelled to keep following them along the road to nowhere, it seems hazily morally justifiable to cheat on them just a little bit for the rest of the summer and continue to keep Waitakere United as my guilty pleasure.

The rest of the season will be interesting, to see if they can make the playoffs and then challenge for silverware. And with Auckland City and Team Wellington continuing to slip up on a semi-regular basis, who knows, I might even end up backing a winner for once in my life!

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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