16 November 2009

Arguably one of the Best Moments in NZ Sport History

The whole nation is celebrating! We who were too young to remember the 1982 football team qualifying for the World Cup are in awe of the achievements of the All Whites on Saturday night, beating Bahrain 1-0 to launch their official journey to the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup in South Africa.

What a gutsy, commanding performance the team put on, not only to score a great goal to go ahead, but to then defend so well for the next 50 minutes to secure their historic win. Mark and a few of his friends (Jared, Jonny and others) had prime seats on the half-way line at the stadium, whilst Jackie and I watched it from the comforts of the couch at home looking after our two boys.

The win certainly had a big impact on Mark, as I heard him say what I never thought I would hear. After seven years in NZ, this is the first time he has watched a team play and truly felt like a New Zealander, something which he would never say about the All Blacks (and I don't blame him, given the grief he has got from All Black supporters for being an Englishman).

It is so lovely to see that football fever has surpassed any interest in rugby this past few weeks, and with the $10m FIFA will now invest in NZ football, one can only hope it will be a turning point in the game here, and encourage a whole new generation of footballers to take an interest and pride in the 'beautiful game'.

Two articles which I've read this week along footballing lines have really resounded with me, both of which focus on the team members who had the two stand-out performances on the night, Rory Fallon for his on-target headed goal, and Mark Paston for his brave defence of the NZ goal under pressure.

One is an article Mark found on Rory Fallon's Christian faith, evident for all to see in some of his after-match comments. The story of how he came to find Jesus in a church in Tenerife a couple of years ago is quite wonderful.

Rory Fallon: Playing on the Side of God

Also during the week, Stuff had a great article on Mark Paston with a picture of his 10-week old son Jack. Just this year, I've gotten to know his wife Amie through our mutual friend Sally, and also as members of the team who put together the Vessel women's magazine for church a few months back. I've not yet had the privilege of meeting Mark but have met his gorgeous wee boy Jack, as Sally, Amie and I got our 3 babies together a couple of weeks ago (we all have boys born 3 weeks apart!). The article on Mark's perspective on the importance of winning or losing the game versus his family life showing he has his priorities aligned.

It's Childs Play for Paston

The timing of the win couldn't have been better as the All White team were able to lead out the Wellington Christmas Parade yesterday afternoon, and the team received a very warm reception from the 50,000+ crowd who turned out for the annual event - our video of the team in the parade below!




I can only imagine how life must be for all the families of the team at the moment, it must feel incredibly surreal to suddenly become household names overnight, and to have played such a pivotal role in potentially altering the name and status of NZ football for years to come.
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