Let’s hear it for the All Whites
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.
All Whites supporters turned out in force to back their team in Wellington.