the real fa cup

Kiwi Encounter


After a gruelling 6 months following the business end of the FA Cup, we needed a break so we removed ourselves from football and headed half way round the world. Actually, it was just a holiday. But never being able to switch off, we fancied a bit of a game in New Zealand anyway.

With a 28 year absence from the World Cup, the fever must surely have gripped the country’s ‘soccer’ fans. Innit? So, watching a game here could be fun, we would bathe in the locals’ heightened anticipation of a great summer (actually, winter in their case). Camper van route mapped, we figured that we could get to see Waikatere .v. Waikato on Sunday 14th March. Top at home to bottom at the business end of the season. With Waiketere including former Wolves and Norwich journeyman Neil Emblen as player coach, we had to root for WAIKATO!

We didn’t hit too many towns on tour but we first popped into the local All Blacks/Sports store in Christchurch to see if we could pick up an NZ All Whites world cup shirt. Hmmm, scarce, this is so big the whole place has sold the fuck out!

After a sodden but spectacular trip through Arthur’s Pass we tried the smaller township of Greymouth. Same story. The sporty Queenstown? Nope. Wellington … didn’t have time so didn’t bother looking … Auckland? Nope. Intriguing. Asked some locals. Not interested. So, this is World Cup fever?

At one time, Neil Emblen was £2million worth of average when he moved from Wolves to Palace. His last FA Cup action was a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Slough while he was playing for Walsall. Ouch. So, Waikatere .v. Waikato. We missed the game on account of a miscalculation brought about by the draconian Kiwi speed limit of 60mph. The leaders won 4-2.

We did watch a park kickabout though. If anyone is in any doubt of the pernicious nature of the Premier League, there were two Chelsea shirts on show in the 15 a-side jumpers for goalposts fest, one Liverpool and a Man United. Not to be outdone, the Italians weighed in with a Milanese and an Old Lady. Some Greek ones, some Japanese ones, some South American ones … and a lot of skins courtesy of the local Maori contingent. Otherwise, zip.

So, World Cup fever is a little lite. Football fever is there among the non-indiginous population so why do some countries not ‘get it’? Dear New Zealand, your national sport might be rugby or maybe cricket but this is the WORLD CUP, now get with the programme.

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