The Waiheke Challenge(s)
Waiheke is probably the most adventurous of the Football Fix one day summer tournaments. It involves quite a bit of travel (by boat, car and bus), commitment, good logistics and composure throughout the day. On the flip side, it is great fun and comes with all the perks of the location – the team can make it as big or as compact as they like.
Zamantix Rovers FC registered only one team this summer, so it was up to the Old Boys to carry the blue and white flag on Waiheke (no pressure at all) and bring home the silverware. Camping overnight before the tournament day was really tempting and almost happened, but the not so kind weather made the Old Boys change their plans hastily just one day prior. Needless to say that all the accommodation and all the cars and vans on Waiheke were already booked at that point, so it was pretty much a 'make your own way to the field – see you there' proposition for everyone.
The morning ferry was not as crowded as expected, although you could see everywhere football jerseys and players of all sizes and ages – some with the game faces on, some relaxed and talkative and a few others – a bit too relaxed already.
Using the public transportation on Waiheke brought the first challenge. It is a bit of a walk from the bus station to the actual sports park – about a kilometer or so which should be a breeze for the casual traveler. However, this can be a bit challenging if you carry your gear and some extra stuff, such as a chilly bin and maybe... a tent or a gazebo?
Setting up the gazebo was the next challenge, especially when you realize that what you were gifted as a gazebo is partly a round tarpaulin and partly a hammock frame. Duh... who said you should check your gear before travelling?
The third challenge was having just enough bodies to field a team for the first game or so – of course there will always be the odd player missing the boat.
The Old Boys did pretty well in their over 35s group, winning two games, drawing one and losing one. This put them in the third place at the end of the round robin which is just of qualifying for the cup finals. Luckily there was a plate up for grab too.
So here was the fourth challenge: pulling themselves together for the semifinals and finding the B-fields of the sports park, somewhere around those hills where probably nobody plays unless there is no other option. The most difficult part in a one day competition is to be able to negotiate the multiple starts and stops throughout the day. When the weather is that hot and humid and you started playing four hours prior, the sun shining beneath the clouds is not really a bless. For that reason, the semifinals were the toughest game so far in spite of a rather anemic opposition.
Finals brought everybody back to the main fields and (just before the games started) a cool drizzle came to save the day. After a fantastic start and a 2-0 lead, Old Boys lost a bit of mojo and the opposition slowly took control and succeeded to push the game to penalty shoot-outs. No mistakes were made and the fifth – and last – of the challenges was successfully completed: Old Boys have won the plate and the bragging rights amongst the Zamantix teams!
Oh well, getting on the evening ferry was a challenge in itself... luckily the ferry company knew there will be massive numbers of people returning home on the day and kept the boats coming. Never saw a queue that long before!!