NZ Foot­ball play­ing games


New Zealand Foot­ball would be torn asun­der if it was sub­jected to the scru­tiny the Rugby Union is un­der con­stantly.

Ei­ther the Govern­ment or the Rugby Union is the most dis­cussed and an­a­lysed or­gan­i­sa­tion in New Zealand. Take your pick, but from what I can see, more people seem in­ter­ested in talk­ing rugby than pol­i­tics, as bizarre as that might sound.

New Zealand is full of rugby ‘‘ex­perts’’ and the pub­lic­ity the sport gen­er­ates through print and broad­cast­ing me­dia is as­tound­ing.

Con­sid­er­ing the in­cred­i­ble spot­light it op­er­ates in, the Rugby Union does pretty well. That’s not to say it’s flaw­less, but these days it gen­er­ally gets the big de­ci­sions right and it has been for­tu­nate to have Steve Tew as its chief ex­ec­u­tive for the past decade.

New Zealand Foot­ball, on the other hand, has lurched from one sham­bles to the next. It is for­tu­nate it doesn’t at­tract more crit­i­cism.

Num­bers are hard to pin­point, but it seems foot­ball has be­come New Zealand’s big­gest par­tic­i­pa­tion sport, ahead of rugby, with cricket, net­ball and bas­ket­ball fol­low­ing.

Many of the foot­ballers are pri­mary school­child­ren, and I sup­pose most of the adults just like to get out there and have a game with­out both­er­ing them­selves overly with the way the sport is run at the top level.

It’s a pity in a way, be­cause New Zealand Foot­ball is not do­ing jus­tice to its large mem­ber­ship, and hasn’t for years.

A clas­sic re­cent ex­am­ple has been the cover-up of the re­view into the All Whites’ re­cent World Cup qual­i­fy­ing fail­ure.

Any­one who fol­lows sport could see that cam­paign was dis­mal. Ricki Her­bert’s team had no buildup to speak of and went into their most im­por­tant match in nearly four years, against Mex­ico, woe­fully un­der­pre­pared. The All Whites were swept aside 5-1.

That lop-sided re­sult ren­dered the re­turn match in Welling­ton vir­tu­ally mean­ing­less.

What went wrong? Was it poor se­lec­tion, poor coach­ing by Her­bert, un­der-per­form­ing play­ers, ad­verse con­di­tions they had no con­trol over, poor prepa­ra­tion or abysmal ad­min­is­tra­tion?

We may never know be­cause New Zealand Foot­ball won’t re­lease its in­de­pen­dent re­port.

That is in di­rect con­trast to the Rugby Union’s ac­tion in re­leas­ing its re­port into the un­sat­is­fac­tory All Blacks per­for­mance at the 2007 World Cup (a quar­ter-fi­nal exit).

Why would the na­tional foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tion not want the re­port aired? Quite prob­a­bly to save it­self em­bar­rass­ment. I’d wa­ger that if the re­port was ro­bust, it pointed the fin­ger squarely at the sport’s ad­min­is­tra­tors.

There has been a con­stant turnover of chief ex­ec­u­tives and other leading of­fi­cials at New Zealand Foot­ball. None seem es­pe­cially ca­pa­ble and they gen­er­ally slip into de­fence mode at any sug­ges­tion of be­ing chal­lenged.

New Zealand foot­ball has had two great mo­ments – qual­i­fy­ing for the 1982 and 2010 World Cups.

De­spite the tremen­dous fol­low­ing foot­ball has in this coun­try, and the ever- grow­ing play­ing num­bers, New Zealand foot­ball will al­ways strug­gle if it can’t find hon­est, pro­gres­sive, knowl­edge­able people to run the game.

The lat­est cover- up sug­gests we’re still a fair way from that.


Game over: Ricki Her­bert signs off his All Whites coach­ing ca­reer with a de­feat by Mex­ico in Welling­ton. But was it his fault?

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