Welcome to my ode to Oceania Football! This is my second attempt since I set up my Kiwi’s In England blog back in the early 2000’s.
I’m based in the UK but previously lived in New Zealand in the mid-2000’s. However, my love affair with Oceania football began all the way back in 1991 when details were at best sketchy (ah, pre-internet days!) and an imagination, relatives and a subscription to the brilliant Kiwi fanzine, Sitter!, were required to keep me updated on going’s on Down Under.
While most other kids in the playground were running around pretending to be Paul Gascoigne or Gary Lineker, yours truly was pretending to be Chris Zoricich or Dave Mitchell (Australia were Oceania back then remember). Whilst most of the other kids would wonder who the hell I was supposed to be, I was following the careers of these players (helped by the fact Dave Mitchell had a spell at my club, Chelsea) and building a mental database.
As if to prove what a small world it is we live in, Chris Zoricich happened to rock up at my local football club on the Surrey / Southwest London border one evening in the 1996/1997 season. Chelsea Reserves (the club’s senior side managed by Ruud Gullit at that time) played their home games at Kingstonian Football Club in Kingston-upon-Thames. As a local teenage Chelsea fan, I turned up with my Dad and took a team sheet. “None of these guys are English,” said the programme seller to us. “I mean look at this guy, he must be Greek or something.” The name he pointed to was none other than Zorro’s so I corrected him that he was actually a Kiwi of Croatian descent and took my leave.
And so for the next half a season I spent every other Monday evening down at Kingsmeadow Stadium to watch Zorro try and earn a contract. Sadly he wasn’t there come the first game of the following season, by then back in Australia’s NSL with Brisbane Strikers. This gutted me as I was finally about to strike up the courage to ask him for his autograph on my Mitre-manufactured All Whites jersey. And so, with the installation of internet at home in 1998, I found an address for Brisbane Strikers marketing exec of the time, Bonnie Mersiades. She kindly offered to get Chris’s autograph for me and she then promptly sent it to me, neatly written in marker and personalised to me in one of the club’s brochures. I was the happiest 18-year-old you’ve ever met at that point!
My first trip to Australia and New Zealand came that same year. My time with family in Canberra was spent driving around trying to find a Socceroos or local club shirt. As a follower of South Melbourne at the time, I’d already purchased one from the club via banker’s draft (how things have changed!) but I bugged my cousin enough to drive me around Canberra one day until we happened upon the most wonderful shop. With no lights on and unused food counters down one side, it’s clear it had at one time been a cafe. Now, it was covered in football shirts both local and overseas. After much deliberation between a Canberra Cosmos or Marconi Fairfield shirt, I went with the latter. A smart sky blue shirt with white Brescia Furniture logo on the front and back.
Upon flying over to New Zealand from Australia, I was met by my uncle who was himself involved at Bay Olympic and a real football man. He knew of my love for Central United and took me direct from the airport to Kiwitea Street. Although there was nobody around and it was quite dark, I finally got to see the place I’d read about so much. It was very different to today with no covered seating stand back in those days – just open terracing.
Whilst in Auckland, I got to see a Northern Premier League game (Central United 4-0 Papatoetoe) and a Chatham Cup 6th Round match against Western Suburbs of Wellington at Kiwitea Street. Ken Dugdale (future All Whites coach) was coach at Suburbs at the time and I can still remember him grabbing a Central player by the scruff of the neck right in front of the dugout before being sent off. Central won 2-1 and went on to beat Dunedin Technical 5-0 in the final that season. After the game I was met by Ivy Vela in the bar and she presented me with the full array of Central memorabilia to buy. I snapped up a bit of everything, my pride and joy of which is still my Croatia-checkered away shirt.
Living in New Zealand in 2007-2008 meant I could go to games every week and I spent every weekend (and some weekdays) watching league games around New Zealand. I also began to take more notice of the surrounding Oceania nations and some of their players who were by now making a name for themselves in the NZFC (as it was then) and this website is a result.
I aim to cover all of the island nations as well as New Zealand and bring as much news as I can. If anyone would like to contribute or get in touch in general, please e-mail me by clicking here. Enjoy and please feel free to post on the forum which will be up-and-running shortly.