Let’s hear it for the All Whites

Marlborough Express - - SPORT - MARK REA­SON

Stand up, New Zealand, the All Whites need you on Thurs­day. You can't be seen, but you can be se­cretly heard.

COM­MENT

Stand up, All Whites fans. Stand up and take a bow, be­cause de­spite the vile ex­hor­ta­tions of NZ Foot­ball boss Andy Mar­tian [Martin], you were hand­some in the wel­come you gave to Peru. You slapped the South Amer­i­can red army on the back in the street and you ap­plauded their play­ers off the pitch.

I know how well you be­haved, be­cause I went to the match dressed in full Peru­vian at­tire, ful­fill­ing the prom­ise I made in re­sponse to Mar­tian’s ugly call to arms. I re­ceived not one word of abuse.

Two All Whites fans asked me in the queue at half­time: ‘‘You guys are toy­ing with us, when are you go­ing to score?’’ There wasn’t any­thing to fear from the All Whites sup­port­ers. The foot­ball fans, like the cricket fans, are full of cheer.

Stand up, All Whites fans, be­cause the coun­try needs you. If I have one crit­i­cism of you, it is that you stay way too long sit­ting down. Did you see the Peru­vian sec­tion at West­pac Sta­dium? They stood and whirled, sang and twirled and par­tied on through­out the game. Imag­ine the lift that gave to their team.

In fact you don’t even have to imag­ine it. Did you see the Rugby League World Cup game be­tween Tonga and New Zealand? The Tonga fans painted Hamil­ton red. They were mag­nif­i­cent. We seem to just do anx­i­ety on the big oc­ca­sions, and that can’t be good for the team. But even when the Ton­gan team was well down at half­time, the fans were still cheer­ing and stand­ing and wav­ing their ban­ners.

‘‘May the horse be with you.’’ ‘‘Die for Tonga.’’

‘‘Un­leash da horses.’’

And boy, did they let those horses go. In a stun­ning spell in the sec­ond half they ram­paged over the top of the Ki­wis with a mag­nif­i­cent mix of skill, power and joy. Don’t for­get that fi­nal part of the mix. The Ton­gans hearts were joy­ful. They could not stop smil­ing when­ever they scored and so there were a lot of smiles. And the crowd was go­ing nuts.

David Fusitu’a, who scored three glo­ri­ous tries, said after­wards: ‘‘It’s crazy man. I just look up there [sniff, glanc­ing at the par­ty­ing hordes]. No, I, some­times I end up singing along just un­con­sciously. The pas­sion they have for our lit­tle na­tion. It’s un­be­liev­able.’’

Adam Blair, the cap­tain of the Ki­wis, said: ‘‘The [Ton­gan] fans are out­stand­ing. You’ve got to give them credit.’’

You have to give them enor­mous credit and that is what the All Whites will be fac­ing one thou­sand fold in Lima. There were 687,196 sep­a­rate ticket ap­pli­ca­tions for the match. The Es­ta­dio Na­cional only holds 45,000 peo­ple, but it will feel like half a mil­lion. Be­fore the All Whites match the fans marched a gi­ant Peru­vian foot­ball shirt through the streets of Lima. it was big enough to drape over the Bee­hive.

For­mer All Whites cap­tain Danny Hay re­mem­bers be­ing in San­ti­ago, the Chilean cap­i­tal, when the home team scored against Brazil. The whole city trem­bled. ‘‘The build­ing we were in just started shak­ing, lit­er­ally shak­ing, when Chile scored a goal. The whole city was shak­ing.

Lights were flick­er­ing on and off. It was like a mini earth­quake.’’

It will be like that in Lima. The drums will beat. They won’t ban mu­si­cal in­stru­ments in Lima’s sta­dium, like West­pac did. It is go­ing to be LOUD. And that is when the All Whites will need you. They need to feel they are not alone. They need to imag­ine New Zealand’s noise, even if it comes from far over the oceans.

And yes, at times it is hard to give them our sup­port. I was dis­ap­pointed how many times (seven) Michael Box­all just shoved a Peru­vian in the back to take him out of the play. I was dis­ap­pointed that four dif­fer­ent Ki­wis went down clutch­ing their face. Win­ston Reid was the first to fall and he only got an el­bow in the back. It looked like a cal­cu­lated tac­tic in the hope of cheating an op­po­nent into a red card.

Some of the tack­les through the back of the Peru­vians were not pretty. Michael McGlinchey’s studs over the top of the ball, a po­ten­tial leg-breaker, was a dis­grace. He did the same against the Solomon Is­lands and then laughed as he left the field. McGlinchey will get sent off if he does that in Lima.

So there was some shame­ful stuff from the All Whites, not helped when the blath­er­ers called com­men­ta­tors dissed the Latins, con­doned McGlinchey’s chal­lenge and then ap­proved of Chris Wood’s steal­ing a cou­ple of yards at a free kick. Hon­our mat­ters when it comes to fans shout­ing for their team. Hon­our is not a mere scutcheon, as Fal­staff would have it. Hon­our is some­thing that fans salute with pride.

There was hon­our in Ryan Thomas’ all round per­for­mance. He is the All Whites’ best player; skill­ful, vi­sion­ary, brave, quick and with an en­gine that never stops. Even the Peru play­ers could not be­lieve he got to that ball in the last minute. And there was hon­our in how An­thony Hud­son set up the team with three cen­tre backs and wide shields for the full backs and a cen­tral mid­field screen of two when needed. Thou shalt not pass.

‘‘Stand up,’’ yelled some in the crowd, when an All White went through the back of an­other Peru­vian. It was the right ad­vice to the wrong peo­ple. Stand up, New Zealand, the All Whites need you on Thurs­day. You can’t be seen, but you can be se­cretly heard.

Hear our voices we en­treat … God de­fend our free land.

From dis­hon­our and from shame

I know this coun­try can sing. I hear the school choirs at the Big Sing ev­ery year and am wowed. We just need to open our hearts and let it out there. So let’s hear it for the All Whites.

PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT

All Whites sup­port­ers turned out in force to back their team in Welling­ton.

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