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Soul food

Kaitaia United 1, Mangawhai 1
Taipa Area School, Taipa, July 21 2018

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Football is like food in a lot of ways. You need it to live, the more you consume the better you feel (up to a point) and sometimes the more lowly you go the better it can be. If the World Cup final is a nine course degustation at Auckland’s top notch Grove Restaurant, a Serie A game is a simple ravioli masterpiece at Mount Eden’s Pasta & Cuore, an A-League game is a rare steak at Lone Star, and an NRFL game is a KFC ‘double down’… Northland Division 1 might be compared to a back-alley Vietnamese street-food vendor, selling you cheap and humble sensory delights you may never have known existed until you tried them.

Stretching the bounds of credibility? Maybe a little, but it’s my narrative and I’m sticking to it!

After six months of dealing with constant conflict every working day over the course of 2018 thus far, last Monday was time for a break. So my partner and I headed out of Auckland, for a week based at Stefano Virgili and his wife Lyndsey’s backpackers villa in the hills surrounding Whangaroa Harbour – ten minutes north of Kaeo. And after a few days exploring everything from Cape Reinga to the Bay of Islands, the plan was to finish our holiday off with a Kaeo Inter game. Alas their opposition defaulted, so that plan fell through, but everything happens for a reason!

In this case the silver lining was getting to do something else I have always wanted to do – watch a game at the northernmost football club in New Zealand! And as luck would have it, yesterday saw both teams associated with that club (Kaitaia United) play at their Taipa home ground near the base of the Aupouri Peninsula and 125km south of the ‘leaping-off place of spirits’ – Te Rerenga Wairua.

The Kaitaia first team were playing Mangawhai, which is the southernmost team in the Northland region, meaning they had to complete an impressive (for this level) seven hour round trip to play this game.

And it was a game I found most entertaining at that!

There were lots of thrills and spills, close calls, goals cleared off the line by defenders and a friendly spirit that even saw Mangawhai at one stage insist to the referee, with quite some vigour, that a throw-in that had been incorrectly awarded to them should instead be given to Kaitaia in a deep attacking position. You don’t see that in the NRFL!

Kaitaia looked the stronger of the two teams for the majority of the first half, and could easily have gone into the break two or three goals to the good, but as it was they led by just a single strike that was driven home by View Rungpao around 15 minutes in.

Mangawhai enjoyed a great start to the second half, with first half goalkeeper Aaron Hunt switching to the outfield and nabbing a cheeky equaliser. Then things went from bad to worse for Kaitaia when defender Steve Daykin suffered a painful looking knee injury that ended his afternoon and necessitated the calling of an ambulance. Neither team had any substitutes so the home side had to play on with ten players.

Mangawhai couldn’t capitalise on their numerical advantage though, and 1-1 was the final score.

I couldn’t resist staying for a bit of the match that followed, a Northland Division 3 clash between Kaitaia’s seconds and Tikipunga Kerala, that looked like another category of awesome again despite arguably being down to pot of hot chips at North Harbour Stadium sort of level…

There were two things I particularly enjoyed. One was a Kerala player who ran off the pitch and left his side a man down while he consoled a crying child. That’s called getting your priorities in order! The other thing was watching a female player, Jayde Florian, playing up front on the left for Kaitaia and absolutely kicking ass. It was cool to see something of a mixed team in action in senior football and note how the woman on the pitch not only looked completely at home footing it with the men but was a real focal point of her side’s attack.

I would have loved to have stayed for that whole game but with about 15 minutes left in the first half I had already stretched Gina’s patience as far as I could and we had to hit the road back to Auckland. I was told later that a female substitute grabbed a goal in a thrilling 4-3 victory to Tikipunga.

All told, a week in Northland wasn’t just an antidote to my life in Auckland, it finished with an added bonus of an antidote to a World Cup without Italy and Liverpool buying Roma’s best player for €75 million. Hanging out in the relaxed country atmosphere of a school paddock with more weeds than grass, cars parked up on the field, the half time oranges in a bag almost spilling over onto the field of play and just a good old kick about – that’s what I call food for the soul.

Categories: NZ Federation Leagues

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Enzo Giordani

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: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

1 reply

  1. As the man in the middle for the second game, I can report that the game ended up being a real cracker. After Kaitaia bossed the first half, they ended up 2 nil down at the break. Then within 2 minutes of the restart had conceded a third. By midway through the second half it was 4 nil to Tikipunga and they were looking good.

    A change in keeper by Kaitaia had the desired result and a weaving run by the tall, quick Kaitaia forward Mika drew a foul in the box for a penalty, which was duly dispatched (Though the local reporter complained that I was in his shot when the kick was taken).

    Only a few minutes later, a rash challenge by the Tiki keeper when the ball was bouncing around the 6 yard box felled a Kaitaia player and a second penalty was awarded. Again well taken and the score was back to 2-4.

    Panic has started to set in to the Tiki players and it was all Kaitaia, Shots from everywhere, one from which a corner was taken and a header from one of the Kaitaia players (Dad) and deflected past the Tiki defenders on the line by another Kaitaia player (Daughter) to make it 3-4 to the calls of “don’t let your Dad claim that one”

    With about 5 minutes left, Kaitaia threw everything at Tiki, but were unable to snatch a draw.

    As Enzo says, the passion and commitment of players at this (and every) level shows what a great game this is.

    Thoroughly enjoyable

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