From "Rug - Ball" to Football
Winter. Wellington, New Zealand.
It's cold. It's raining. A southerly gale blows through Porirua's green hills to the sea.
Youth football season 2013.
The grass is 5 inches long. 5 inches of cakey mud lie below. One can barely make out the knees of the 10 year olds about to wreak havoc on this patch of grass. I've summoned my team to "pull their hands out of their sleeves and try to get a rondo going." A kid's shoe comes off in the mud. The parents are better suited to play in their gumboots and Swanndri.
The guardians of the game, whomever they are, have declined us the opportunity to play on a million $ artificial turf pitch - where the grass is cut perfectly each week - due to a complaint issued in previous weeks. An opposition parent complains, "We can't possibly play there! The lines are not painted properly. Cones are too ambiguous for out of bounds calls!" So, here we are. Postgate Park, Porirua. Football development paradise. New Zealand.
Today, we're playing against a Wellington streamed side. 11th grade A. The opposition are big, strong and athletic. Unlike us, they are licking their chops, liking their odds. To be honest, I do too. I look across the pitch. The opposition coach has his 10 year olds taking shoulder hits at tackle dummies. The players bounce off them, often falling over from the impact. They pop back up full of mud and rip shots from 15 metres out. I gasp. It's amazing. Unbelievable really. I can't help but chuckle. One of my parents, a pretty knowledgable football bloke puts his hand on my shoulder, "Welcome to New Zealand mate. Youth Football Development Kiwi style."