[This piece first appeared in the Hamilton Wanderers match day programme ‘Sidelined’ on the 28th of January 2018]
Rod de Lisle: “Enzo, can you write us another one of your hysterically funny yet searingly accurate Wanderers programme columns?”
Me: “Sure! What do you want me to write about?”
Rod: “How about football blogging in New Zealand?”
Except, it’s not an easy topic to turn hysterical wit and searing accuracy to, because rather than poking fun at other people it’s essentially going to be a column about me and some of my very good friends.
So forgive me if this ends up being a little bit dull.
A few years ago, for reasons I won’t bore you with, I was looking for a new hobby. I liked writing and I liked football so I thought “why not combine the two?” and I started a football blog. Before I set it up I did a google search to find out what else was out there. There was nothing akin to what I had in mind.
There was Jeremy Ruane’s amazing http://www.ultimatenzsoccer.com, which isn’t a blog. It’s part encyclopaedia and part news site, where you can read meticulously detailed match reports on the latest games along with lovingly compiled statistics dating back to the Punic Wars.
Aside from that there was http://www.aseasonofsaturdays.blogspot.co.nz, which was a very very very good blog about one man’s love for Wainuiomata FC – in the Capital Premier League – but sadly the guy running it was running out of oomph just as I discovered it.
And the other New Zealand football blog that was out there at that time was former All White Maurice Tillotson’s ‘Cerebral Soccer’, http://www.tillotson.co.nz, which was and still is brilliant. It’s hard to do it justice in a one sentence description – just go and read it if you haven’t already! You won’t be sorry.
Two independent football blogs in a country of four million people sounds low, and it is, but here’s the weird thing – there wasn’t a lot out there covering other sports either!
The UK sporting blogosphere is massive. They have literally hundreds of football blogs alone covering individual clubs, tactics, grassroots and Premier League clubs.
Given the popularity of the eggball code here I would have expected at least one or two prominent dedicated rugby blogs in New Zealand, but there’s really nothing.
My theories as to why are twofold.
Firstly it’s possible that the word ‘blog’ is tainted a little bit in New Zealand by the rotten behaviour of some political bloggers, and many people might not realise that political blogging is only a very tiny part of the blogosphere.
Secondly I guess the New Zealand sport loving public are largely satisfied with the coverage they get from mainstream media. Perhaps they are fine with only really reading about rugby, cricket, Manchester United and the ISPS Handa Premiership if they are lucky.
I wasn’t though. I want to read about my favourite team, AS Roma, and I want to read about Ngaruawahia United and Kaeo Inter, and Caversham and Wainouiomata FC.
They say the printing press was one of the most important inventions in human history because it enabled the mass dissemination of information. But it was only really information that suited the majority that reached the masses. Now we have the internet, via which everyone’s obscure tastes can be catered for.
And if you want a job done properly, you have to do it yourself.
So, happy in the knowledge that there wasn’t much competition, and more importantly I wasn’t stepping on anyone’s toes, I picked up my camera and went to a football game – A national league Super City derby was the first.
To start with, not a lot of people were reading my stuff, which is probably just as well because it was pretty average. But after a while my writing improved. Then my photography improved to the point where I invested in some better camera equipment and I now enjoy that side of things even more than the writing.
Then the readers came. These days http://www.in-the-back-of-the.net gets more page views in a good week than we got in the entire first year.
We now have seven writers – four men and three women, covering all the highs and lows of life as football fans in New Zealand as we see them. It’s fun and rewarding.
And one of the measures of our success is we have some added competition! Dave Webster is doing a similar sort of thing to us in Wellington at http://www.thejourneyfan.blogspot.co.nz, winning back to back Website of the Year awards from the NZ Football Media Association in the process, and Dieter Dvorak’s http://www.footballnumbersblog.wordpress.com adds something completely different with statistical analysis of the grassroots game as well as national league and the Phoenix.
Football is perhaps more suited to blogging than other sports because it is romantic and accessible. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand it, it’s cheap or free to attend, it’s popular with a worldwide potential audience in the billions and it invokes passion like no other sport on earth.
So there’s still plenty of room for more of us! If you’ve read my blog and you think it’s rubbish, or even if you think it’s not too bad, have a go yourself! I guarantee you’ll get a kick out of it.
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/