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Still got that feeling?

Cambridge 2, Waiheke 3
John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge, May 13 2018

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I lost track of the number of people who asked me if I was going to the McLeod Road derby (HNK Auckland Croatia v Waitemata) for my Chatham Cup fix this weekend! As tempting as that intriguing little contest between two extremely close neighbours featuring  Kransky sausages on the BBQ undoubtedly was, I had other ideas. My German groundhopping friend Florian was keen to add a Waikato ground to his collection of obscure football locations that he’s visited all over the world – and that was more than a good enough excuse for me to take him on my favourite road trip to visit my very very very good friends at Cambridge FC!

It was also a great excuse for me to catch up with Waiheke United for the first time in 2018! And what a difference a few months make. It seems a lot has changed at that colourful little club we all love out on the Hauraki Gulf.

On paper, the first noticeable thing is they have a new coach. With Nick Saunders having decided he had taken them as far as he could, he has made way for Malcom McPherson – who took Eastern Suburbs all the way to the National League and now has clear ambitions to do the same for Waiheke.

And now that they are playing at a new level it’s a big step up so it’s time to get serious. No more shenanigans!

Along with Malcom and his “no nonsense” style, has come a host of new players who are no stranger to top level club football in New Zealand. Players like Tom Shaw, Rhys Ruka who have won the Chatham Cup/NRFL Premier double and Marc Evans who was a prolific goal scorer at Melvile. Most of the Argentinian players we have grown used to seeing them field are either playing reserves or have run into visa difficulties and left our shores.

It’s probably not altogether surprising that after all this, we have seen a more than noticeable drop-off in the noise and colour from La Banda. To the point that the famous YUGE banner was at Cambridge yesterday but nothing else. No drums, no singing, no pyro. Silence.

I have been told that there is some resentment below the surface. It’s nothing against the new players, who everyone speaks very highly of, or the ambitions of the club. It’s just that the “family” has been split up. All but a few of the players who got the club to this point have been sidelined and isolated from the first team. The reserves don’t feel like part of the project anymore, and in previous years they were the ones who provided a lot of the vocal support.

The La Banda motto is “this is a feeling” but it seems that the trade-off for a win at all costs approach is that feeling gets watered down somewhat.

They got a good win today, coming back from a 25th minute Callum McLeod goal down in long serving Cambridge coach Mike Woodlock’s last game in charge. The equaliser was struck by Jamie Lamb in the 31st minute before Ramiro Vilar gave the visitors the lead just before the break.

Cambridge looked done when Marko Memedovic extended Waiheke’s lead in the 53rd minute but despite that a trademark Josh Clarkin header in the 73rd minute set up a grandstand finish. But whle there were opportunities for Cambridge to send us into extra time, they weren’t taken and 3-2 was the final score.

Through to the second round of the Chatham Cup, in previous years the Waiheke players would be revelling with the ultras. But yesterday they walked off with barely a grin. It was just a case of job done.

Talking to some from Waiheke yesterday, they are happy with where things are going. They seem to view this as inevitable progression as the club evolves and becomes more professional. Many of the supporters were there before La Banda and they will be there after it.

I should wait until I see them play at home before I properly judge but I have to say, at the moment, I am seriously worried that it’s not “a feeling” anymore. It’s just a bog standard garden variety football club like all the others. And that would be tragic. Because, sure, winning is important, but they weren’t just winning before. They were changing football for the better and that’s worth so much more than trophies in my book.

Florian put it best for me after we had finished talking to a range of Waiheke people yesterday – “It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, big clubs and little ones, fucking money always ruins everything”.

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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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.

14 replies

  1. Good article Enzo! Thanksfor attending to a Waiheke game. All of what u wrote is true. We could have grown a lot with the help of new sponsors. But it seems they came here to take it all, and start a new one. The ones who really take care of the club are steel fightin for it. Nothing to do with the new players, that mostly live in akl, maybe with who brought them.
    “…fucking money always ruins everything” 👏🏽👏🏽

  2. disagree. the standard of NZ football over the last few years has been terrible. Clubs definately need money so the standard can improve. Watched Waiheke last year in div 2 and the standard was shocking and had they not recruited new players they would have went down. Its a shame that some of the supports cant get over their own ego’s and support the team the manager and the people putting the money in.

  3. Thank you Enzo for the post !!! I agree with you 100%. Last year when the money appear, I knew it was the beginning of the end.
    I m not afraid to comment with my name, and disagree with anonymous comment! Every year we got promoted we did it ourselves, no one get paid and it was all about passion, heart and nice football… it seems we have lost the first two ones.
    But there still hope within La Banda, and things hopefully will change !

    Looking forward to see you at waiheke and have a chat!

  4. I don’t understand the making football better thing?
    Sure what they did was exciting and new and everyone wanted to find out more. But that was mostly off the pitch, on the pitch they had some talented players from South America (which Fury had previously done).

    So how have they made football better and also why would they care? Surely the heart and soul members of Waiheke care about if the club is better, helping more members and engaging their community more.

    I just hope we are not being sucked in by flares and drums…. as exciting as they are.

    1. I’m a fan. Not a player, coach nor an administrator. For me, better = more exciting and fun. And the game needs more fans to make the other parts of it better, right? Flares and drums draw people in who spend money at the bar and give the players some atmosphere to play in.

    2. And like I said on Facebook – what’s the point of “success” on the pitch if you’re going to be just another club like all the others, only a pain in the ass to travel to? They had a great point of difference that they are in danger of losing. Then they will be of no interest to anyone who isn’t a stalwart of the club.

  5. I understand as a fan liking them but I think the fawning over them has been a bit much. But like I said i understand the attraction.
    I wish sometimes people would look beyond the men’s and women’s first teams at clubs and see what clubs are doing in their space that is making a difference.

    Not directed at you Enzo – just a comment in general.

    1. Always happy to come to Ellerslie and cover something a bit different mate! Let me know what’s happening! No floodlights though. 😜

      1. Not really a pro ellerslie comment – there are heaps of clubs doing awesome things at community level – some of the engagement that Birko did with their juniors is a great example.

        Maybe if i can be so bold to suggest an interview with a club’s director of football, that would be interesting – maybe Knowles at Bay Olympic as he is working over multiple levels could be an angle not often covered.

        1. As players of the first team of waiheke, we tried to give our support to junior leagues. A few have coach junior teams, we are always willing to help community in any fund raising. We had an exceptional coach Dennis who tried to promote junior players to train with us so they gain more experience. We were happy just winning with a few talented players, that was the magic. And having supporters and flares and drums it was just something awesome, and of course they were the 12th player on the pitch. Our commitment with waiheke is huge, the social media was created by us, now the money took control. We fight and help building the grades with our hands and time,

  6. Chino,
    Dude I love you and many of the other south Americans I call friends but you and la Banda and many others in your circle are looking at this all wrong, from an angle as if the club is yours. it is not. it was here well before any of you came.
    I’ve been part of waiheke united for 27 of my 32 years and seen it change so much, from a kid playing with friends, to a bunch of all local lads winning the conference, to not being able to field a team, to the south American influence to what we have now.
    let’s think back to when the south American influence began, at that point we were a team of locals. we all got pushed out for whatever reason or left all together due to the attitudes, lack of enjoyment and in many cases general disregard of what waiheke united was by many of you. I then realised waiheke as a club needed you all and this to progress further or we would stay at conference or below. since that day i and many other locals have supported you all and I’m proud to call some of you friends However the time has come for waiheke to progress further and a new influence is here, and if you are a true waiheke united supporter as I am and many of the real “roots” of this club are you will get behind and support them also.

    1. I agree on the changing, and I Ve seen the transformation with the South American influence. I don’t think the club is mine, and waiheke will loose my support!. When I first played, we were 4/5 South American on the team and I really enjoy the mix, and always being pushing forward to try to Mantein the mix of cultures, encouraging the English and helping in the growing of the club. The only thing I disagree, is to see waiheke becoming more like a business rather than a team of friends achieving great things. In my personal opinion, the aim of playing football never was winning, just fun, but it happens that we were good haha! the only thing I didn’t like is the arrival of a person with loads of money making the growth process just to fast.

      Hopefully we achieved what they have invested for, imagine if doesn’t work and have to rely again on islanders!

      Hope to see you soon

  7. agreed brother but also look outside of the first team.
    come down to OSP at 9am on a Saturday morning and see the juniors buzzing. the crowds, the support and the commitment the atmosphere – there is alot more to a club than just the 1st team.
    I’m not saying I agree or disagree with what’s happening however the new players, the new coach and everything new has been decided has been by a dedicated committed of volunteers who are only trying to help the club.
    rather than bringing the negative feedback to the club which you all love, help support it. whether you agree or not. we both love the same thing

    1. So maybe the committee can be paid now instead of being volunteers. Or paid coaches for junior division so they can develop a real plan! That would be money good invested, instead of paying lots to just senior players/coaches
      (But truly in here i am just speaking without knowing). I ll be back soon to the island and will have the chance to see everything with my eyes, then we can discuss better!

      But overall, the article was written by someone from outside waiheke, and his point of view is pretty similar to mine

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