Southern 1, Northern 2
Sunnyvale Park, Dunedin, November 4 2018
I’m writing this post at a cruising altitude of 37,000 feet in the emergency exit row of an Air New Zealand Airbus A320. On the plane with me I have the Prime Minister, a solid chunk of the governing political party of New Zealand and the Northern Lights. I have had a fantastic three days in Dunedin and this absolutely includes watching my local National Women’s League team play as far away from home as is literally possible.
The primary purpose of my trip south was to attend the Labour Party Conference – my first in quite some time. As I’ve written before, Labour is an organisation I have devoted a lot of my life to over the years, before a bit of a self-imposed exile to concentrate on football blogging. Unfortunately my election to the party’s Policy Council at the beginning of 2018 meant that I couldn’t continue to avoid some things!
On this occasion it provided me with a happy coincidence though. Before the competition draw came out I had been praying that it would spit out a home game for Southern United this weekend, and fortunately it did. Until this game, this was the only federation I had never seen play at home in the National Women’s League so it was long past time.
A few years ago, when I visited the Pride in Christchurch for the first time and raved about how great it was, I was advised in the comments section that:
“Since South Island women’s football has painted itself in such a positive light, I’m gonna recommend that in order to maintain that perception you don’t venture even further South!”
I’m pleased to report that this recommendation proved to be best ignored! Aside from it being clear to see that this is an innovative federation that values its women’s football and finds interesting ways to do cool things with what they have, Football South also gave me one of the friendliest welcomes I have ever experienced at a game like this.
In fact, despite my reservations about re-entering the Labour fold after being away so long, the whole weekend was one of warmth – except for the first 20 minutes of the football when the rain came down in horizontal sheets and we were lashed by a strong bitter southerly gale.
At the conference there was a passing hello from Jacinda Ardern, who I have worked with in the party before but until now I hadn’t seen in person since she became PM, along with other friendly greetings from lots of old friends and foes alike – including foes who have become friends and friends who have become foes – such is politics.
Then at the football there were lovely greetings and handshakes from many including a great big hug from former NZ Under 20 goalkeeper Tessa Nicol. But by far my favourite greeting of the entire weekend was from the famous Dunedin football identity Rab Smith: “Ah so you’re Enzo. I read your stuff. Most of it is wrong.” Thanks Rab. Tell me something else I don’t know!
The game saw a solid display from a Lights team that was largely on top, particularly in the first half. Southern lifted in the second spell and were arguably unlucky not to nab a point but by the same token the visitors should also have polished things off in the final stages. I thought Northern looked more potent on attack than I have seen them all season and their two goals away from home in tricky conditions are a testament to that. So yes, Rab is quite right, I am mostly wrong, but I might have been onto something on last week’s Return Fixture when I suggested that Northern might be better without their Under 17s, who boarded a plane bound for the World Cup on Saturday, than they are with them.
The NZLP conference voted to head to Whanganui at the same time next year, in a closely fought runoff with Rotorua. I forgot to tell River City’s awesome Labour Mayor Hamish McDouall that the price of my vote was a Central game timed appropriately. He managed to get Air Chathams to put on extra flights as part of the city’s bid so this should be a cinch and as a massive West Brom fan I know he understands strange football obsessions as well as anyone! I’m sure he’ll come through.
Categories: NZ Women's National League
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/