Let’s hear it for the All Whites

Nelson Mail - - SPORT - MARK REA­SON

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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