Thursday, November 19, 2009

Road to South Africa 2010: NZ All Whites in Finals

The New Zealand “All Whites” football team has scored an emotion-rousing 1-0 victory over Bahrain to win its slot for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa. New Zealand has been to the finals of the world’s biggest sports tournament only once before, in 1982.

Everyone who has been to the Wellington Stadium for a big time rugby match (like the All Black’s second test win against the British Lions), or a World’s Sevens tournament, or a pulsating Hurricanes on-night, or a Wellington Phoenix game, will tell you why the ground is called The Cake Tin. It’s circular, it gets really noisy, and the energy flow is just incredible. The Mexican Wave was invented for this place. And so it was with the All Whites, the round ball drew a record crowd in the round house.

There’s a phrase in Peak Performance we call “feel like a family, play like a team”. Ricki Herbert drew this feeling out, and you could see it in the father-son joy of Rory and Kevin Fallon. Striker Rory scored the game’s goal, a handsome header off a corner. Kevin was assistant coach to the All Whites for the finals in Spain 27 years ago. He’s been in soccer every day since and Friday night’s game must have been a dream come true – again.

The largely amateur team had many heroes including goalkeeper Mark Paston who saved a penalty goal to save the match. Bloggers have been quick to examine the passion that was so keenly on display in Wellington, to the hardy spectacle I sat through on Saturday night in Milan, the All Blacks playing Italy. The Italian pack were just terrific to watch, but not a lot else unfortunately. Might we wish for champagne rugby this weekend at Twickenham? A good hammering will do just fine.

My own nerves will be focused on the USA Eagles vs Uruguay Rugby World Cup qualifying knock-out being played at in Fort Lauderdale. USA won last weekend’s game by five points, scoring four tries but having a poor final quarter. The outcome will be decided on total points and at the moment we’re only a try ahead. It’s no wonder that sport is the world’s seventh largest enterprise.


Richard said...

Hey Kevin. I'm intrigued and always have been at your open love for the All Blacks. I completely understand how they tick so many boxes, but most importantly - intimacy, mystery and sensuality (yep even that!). But how do you reconcile your Lancastrian pride, with wanting England to get a "good hammering" at Twickenham tomorrow?

I'm a ex-pat living in, and loving Chicago - but my first sporting love was, is and always will be England - in every sport.

Just curious how you can want England to lose so heavily???

Jose Baldaia said...

Here in Portugal, the antipodes of New Zealand, we also celebrated the passport to South Africa. Result: Bosnia 0-1 Portugal. That was not a big deal because we think we have a team.
We are a country of foot-ball and “Fados” (typical Portuguese music) but I should appreciated one day that Portuguese social media talked more about Creativity and Innovation.
Jose Baldaia

Tony said...

and what an awesome atmosphere it was!

The stadium really came alive for this memorable occasion. It felt quite 'tribal'.

Robyn said...

Nice use of my photo! And thanks for the credit.

It was an amazing game to experience in person, even though I'm not (normally) much of a sports fan.

Kevin Roberts said...


I’ve never much admired the way England played rugby. I’ve always found them to lack ambition, flair and adventure. Obviously there’s been exceptions… but my heart was captured as an impressionable teenager by the ’64 and ’67 All Blacks. And since moving to NZ in 1989 I’ve been even more impressed by their mana, their whakapapa and their positive attitude. I don’t want to see England lose, but I do want to see NZ win… and for the record, I consider myself a Lancastrian, not an Englishman.

Best wishes,