Sunday, March 25, 2012
Taking the field to loud roars
Ewan finally got to lead his team out of the tunnel at Westpac Stadium and onto the field in front of thousands of screaming soccer fans.
It was, as they say here, sweet as.
Admittedly it was the team of ballboys, but it was still a rush - for him and for me.
Soccer-mad Ewan, 12, and some of his buddies from the North Wellington soccer club were chosen to be ballboys for the Wellington Phoenix's last homegame. The club really knows how to make a great day for the kids.
They arrived two hours before kick-off, were taken into the bowels of the stadium, given a uniform, and then taken out onto the field for surprisingly thorough ballboy coaching. Who knew it was so serious?
Before the game some band started playing. I was a little annoyed, because the stage was set up right in front of my seat. After a couple of minutes, though, the ballboys were ushered to stand beside the stage. I put my long lens on and started taking a lot of pictures, wishing only that the poncy lead singer would get out of the way so I could take some candid shots of Ewan. Within minutes a security guard came over and told me I'd have to stop taking pictures. The band didn't want photos with long lenses used for commercial purposes.
"Are these guys somebody?" I asked the guard, "because I'm only trying to take pictures of my son."
"Yeah, that's Dane Rumble, mate."
"Oh," I nodded knowingly, wondering who the hell that was when he was at home.
Turns out Dane Rumble is a pretty popular Kiwi artist and he was playing his brand new single - due to be released tomorrow - just for us!
If only that Dane guy would get out of the way, you could see Ewan, back right.
Actually, credit where credit is due, Dane, as I now know him, was pretty good and was very nice to the screeching girls who were bopping up and down in front of him.
After the musical interruption - I mean interlude, of course - the ballboys went back into the tunnel. I was already learning that watching an event when your son is the ballboy is an entirely different proposition. I was seeing things no one else was even watching.
After a couple of minutes Ewan and the ballboys came running out of the tunnel with the teams - right in front of the most boisterous Wellington supporters.
Ewan's station was between the two dugouts, and he was warned that he was going to hear the most ferocious language there. He said he couldn't understand a word the coaches were shouting, which is probably just as well.
It's odd watching a game of footie this way. The only thing I was cheering for was for the players to kick the ball out, preferably around midfield so that Ewan could get some action.
I had to force myself to watch the game. A few minutes in, Wellington defender Sigmund was called for a foul. "That wasn't a foul," the fan in front of me yelled. "He fell over."
"Yes, it was a Freudian slip," I offered - to unappreciative silence. Still, my bon mot kept me giggling for the next five minutes. It's what you do when you're at a game on your own.
Ewan and the other ballboys did really well. Yes, I actually watched how they covered each other and how quickly they got the ball back into play. I also left my seat to get closer to Ewan and spent the entire match trying to catch his attention. When we were leaving the stadium Ewan asked me how I got to the seat I was in. He'd seen me all along but, professional that he is, had heeded the trainer's command that parents were to be ignored.
Damn, he was good at that.
One other observation, and this as a guy who cut his football teeth on the terraces of Ibrox: football is really nice when it's organized like a family event as it is here. Even the supporters' songs, such as the inoffensive "Wellington is Wonderful," are happy and without the hate-filled invective of British football. There were lots of kids, women and families at the game. It had a good vibe.
After the game was over - oh yeah, the Phoenix lost 2-1 - the kids got to wait in the tunnel and get the players' autographs. Ewan left the stadium a happy man.