Monday, 1 October 2012

The F Word

I knew that one day I would end up writing about the F word in sport. It was inevitable, inescapable even. I tried to put it off for as long as I could. The F word was never going to be my favourite topic. But, today I felt compelled to do a piece on that F word.  Football.

During the winter months, I spend many hours in the mud at football, and I do it with pleasure. You just can't knock the enthusiasm from the kids who want to get out there and kick a ball around in the rain, the wind  and the mud. We've had Saturday football for a few years now, and Sunday as well as there is always someone playing in a rep tournament somewhere across Auckland.

But today was a bit special. We weren't actually playing , just going along to watch. Day one of the School Holidays and we were off to the Three Kings United National 9th Grade Tournament at Keith Hay Park. This was the final day of a 3 day tournament where the kids had played a number of 40 minute games each day. On the final day, there were Quarters, Semis and Championship Finals to be played. Master 9 wasn't playing, but he was dead keen to go along (with his rugby ball) and cheer on his mates from Eastern Suburbs who had been unbeaten in the first two days of the tournament.  Having been to so many of these tournaments this winter, there's something a little intoxicating about the atmosphere, the anticipation and the excitement.
Three Kings United National 9th Grade Tournament

We arrived in time for the semis, and watched Eastern Suburbs take on old rivals East Coast Bays. These teams have , for the most part, faced each other more than once during the winter, and know each other's game pretty well. The kids all get to know each other's name on the field, and whilst they are fighting it out on the pitch, they are quite happy to chat afterwards.

Happily Eastern Suburbs were the victors in their Semi Final, putting East Coast Bays away 6-0. On the next pitch Forrest Hill battled it out with the hosts TKU, with the visitors taking it away. That game ran a few minutes behind, and when the TKU boys heard Eastern Suburbs had won, they came straight over to wish them all the best for the final against Forrest Hill. That camaraderie and competition is the product of a long season battling it out together.

The Dads giving the Ref a helping hand
The thing I find interesting about the Championship Final at these tournaments is how the parents and supporters respond to the pressure. I'm generally pretty philosophical about the whole thing, and I like to think that's how I survive.
I spoke to two mums today who were on the Rescue Remedy to get through the emotional angst of it all. Another mum could not actually watch the match and removed herself to a chair at a safe distance where she could do her breathing exercises in relative safe comfort. But it's the dads that fascinate me the most. Living vicariously through your offspring is alive and well on the sidelines. This goes for every match I have been to, irrespective of which teams are playing. The dads feed on the adrenalin and get really excited by all the on pitch drama. There's finger pointing, there's shouting, gesticulating, waving and jumping up and down on the spot. It's generally  in  good humour, and mostly directed at the ref. I have yet to see anyone come to blows or take anything further.

But, returning to the championship final. What a match! These boys had been playing football for three days straight, and this was their final shot at glory. The sun was shining and the temperature was unseasonably warm. Sunscreen was applied pre match, just in case. It ended up being 40 minutes of a hard fought battle between two old foes. No George and the dragon here. These two teams have been beating each other all season, and know each other's game very well indeed. There was a bit of drama, with a few hard tackles, mum on the pitch with the magic spray, and apparently the ref was blind. But the boys from the other side of the bridge prevailed, and got to take home the biggest trophy of the season.

Championship Winners Trophy

And with that, all the mums quickly exhaled. All the dads started on their discussions about how the ref should have seen this, that and the other. The North Shore boys celebrated at full volume. The boys from  Suburbs ended up in tears at the frustration of seeing the big win slip through their fingers.
Eventually everyone packed up their gazebos and camp chairs and headed home to hang up their football boots and to dig the cricket gear out of the garage to get ready for another season of sport.


  1. Ah, parents who feel the need to relive their former glories (or lack thereof) through ther kids... Nice read.

  2. Yup. Those parents are everywhere, in every code. The football ones crack me up and I play a guessing game to see how many of them turn out to be English. (Almost) every time a coconut!