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They’ve only gone and done it again!

Birkenhead United 1, Western Suburbs 1 AET (Birkenhead won 5-4 on penalties)
North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, September 9 2018

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Well that was one of the all-time best weekends I can remember. Ella, Helena and I recorded an exciting new podcast that will be coming your way very soon, ITBOTN got named Website of the Year at the New Zealand Football awards night and then I got to watch two incredible football results unfold before my very eyes!

I cringed at the function on Saturday night when NZF Chairman Deryck Shaw used what is, in my humble opinion, the most overused proverb in Maoridom – he tangata, he tangata, he tangata (it is people, it is people, it is people). But in spite of its corniness, it is of course quite true. People make good things special.

One of the great things about Cup Final Day is it brings the New Zealand football community together. I caught up with so many great people in the space of a few hours that I would usually run into over the course of a whole year.

It was also very pleasing to mark the blog’s success the night before as the only media outlet with two accredited people in the tribune. We had a writer, Ella, who also did a wonderful job of live tweeting on the ITBOTN Twitter account. And we had a photographer, yours truly, who had to be placed on performance management during the Kate Shepard Cup final for being at the wrong end for almost every goal… We also had Morgan there in the stands and Helena supporting her Swans.

My only writing responsibility, it had been preordained, was to write about the Chatham Cup final. But hey, you can read about that in millions of other places, and you can watch it on Sky, and you probably already have, so I’m not going to bother telling you what you already know. Instead, after the above bit of naked self-indulgence, I thought I’d just spin a couple of brief anecdotes then round things off with an awful cliché. Sound ok?

Sorry, that was a rhetorical question, I wasn’t really asking…

After Birkenhead’s semi-final win I was talking to their assistant coach, Andrew Parkinson, in the departure lounge of Nelson Airport. One of the things he said that really stood out at the time was he thought Birko had played at about 40% that day.

Wests were hot favourites with a lot of people going into the final. I hadn’t seen them play, but those who had raved about ‘total football’ playing well-oiled machines who tore Onehunga Sports apart in the quarter-finals and would most likely do the same to Birko.

When people told me about this Wests juggernaut I just kept thinking back to that chat with Parky. If Birko could turn that 40% into 100% then nobody could stop them. It’s easier said than done though, of course.

You know what though? They bloody well almost made that leap. And if they didn’t quite get to 100% (they probably squandered too many goalscoring opportunities for that) they certainly did enough to look the better side over the course of 90 minutes and snatch victory albeit largely thanks to two super penalty saves from Damo Hirst. After the match one of the physios quipped “we’ve got to find an easier way to do this!” It was certainly heart stopping. I messaged Parky today and asked him what percentage he thought they had played at. His reply was 90%.

Once again, Birko brought with them a massive red and white army of fans who provided an atmosphere that I sorely missed at last year’s final.

I was also stoked to get a respectable photo of the Alex Connor-McLean goal celebration after the Kate Sheppard Cup debacle. I trust my Performance Improvement Plan is now null and void.

Another highlight was Alec Solomons almost kicking an advertising hoarding into my shins at full time after extra time. Apparently it was on TV too. I am looking forward to seeing that on the replay!

At the end of the match, I got a whisper in my ear from Parky “the same rules as last time apply mate”. Into the dressing rooms I went. As with 2016 I posed with the Cup and also took many, many photos of various groupings of players on demand.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but apparently it does.

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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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/

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