Oooooooh Santi Cazorla!
Once again, my apologies for the lateness of this one. Sounding like a broken record here but the internet (and general availability of it for that matter) in New Zealand is abysmal. It means that blog articles, with their rich content, have to wait until I stumble across one of those rare 'high-speed' connections, hence the lack of photos on this particular post. It's a shame because this country has been, by far, the most visually breathtaking I have ever visited, and I've got loads of pictures to upload on Flickr. Hopefully Auckland will have cottoned on to the fact that it's the 21st century and I'll be able to share this part of the adventure with you all in more detail.
Anyway, the challenge of watching every Arsenal game of the 2013/2014 season continues. I was still in Wellington to catch the Fulham game, which kicked off, locally, at 4am. It was a long day because I was playing footy twelve hours before, and we had all elected to make a night of it and sleep after the Gunners had played. The Wellington Phoenix, the A-League's only New Zealand team, were also playing on the same day.
The Phoenix were playing Melbourne Victory, and Alister White, a Gooner who works as an intern at the Phoenix, got hold of a ticket for me. The Phoenix ended up thumping the Victory 5-0, an impressive feat when you consider where both teams were in the standings before the game.
Afterwards, we headed over to The Grand in the centre of Wellington for the Phoenix after party. This is where you really notice the difference between the elite leagues of world football and the A-League. The Grand is where all the Phoenix players and coaching staff go after each home game. You don't need a ticket, or an invitation, I'm guessing the only prerequisite is that you don't wear an opposition shirt. Inside, all the players were mingling with the paying public, there was a man-of-the-match presentation. I even chatted with Ernie Merrick, the current coach, and attempted to give some business lessons to a hobo that turned out to be the club owner. It was a refreshing change to the all-too-familiar 'behind closed doors' affairs of the Premier League
clubs. It's an honest approach to the game and one that I could get
Alister hosted a few of us to watch the Arsenal match. After a few beers and an uninsprining tequila-and-coke concoction, kickoff arrived. The result was, as is becoming the norm, another three points to keep us top of the table. The way in how we did it was equally familiar; loads of possession, questionable finishing, a few close calls before eventually closing out the game, this time with thanks to Santi Cazorla. The contenders at the Premier League summit remain within a hair's breadth of one another though – the question is, which team will slip up first?
So with EPL round 22 out of the way, the next fixture is in the FA Cup against Coventry. I'll be in Auckland for that one, before heading back to Sydney for one final game in Oceania.
Before that though I'll be experiencing the wonders of New Zealand's North Island, including natural hot mineral pools and maybe some bubbling mud. Ooh.