There's a guy who comes to my house from time to time and does odd jobs. He's a Kiwi and very proud. When replacing the paving stones in the garden or looking at the dodgy patio door, he is usually waxing lyrical about the All Blacks, talking inside centres and wonky line-outs.
This time though, whilst looking at the garage door, he was talking about the All Whites. Quite enthusiastically.
He was telling me about the travails of the New Zealand national football team. He was telling me that Ryan Nelson was underrated and that a chap called Wynton Rufer used to be really good. But all of this was quite calm compared to his sheer, almost foaming at the mouth, enthusiasm he was displaying about the fact that New Zealand were going to this year's World Cup.
He is going of course, and I hope to see him there, but all of this talk about the All Whites was getting me intrigued. How exactly have New Zealand managed to find themselves in South Africa?
Every World Cup has one, don't they?
A fairy tale story about a team that comes from a far flung place and stands little chance in the three games they'll inevitably play and lose. These teams tend to have barmy supporters and the obligatory shots of thousands of fans in a pub waving flags about and getting drunk.
Over 34,000 people crammed themselves into Wellington Stadium, a record crowd by some margin, to see New Zealand beat Bahrain 1-0 and book their plane tickets. The scenes afterwards were of pure euphoria, a nation utterly gripped by a football story. It was clear to see New Zealand believed that it was all possible.
Coach Rikki Herbert always believed.
When I looked into it a little more, Herbert seemed to be the ultimate motivator, always saying that his players were only as good as the last match and talking about a destiny. It was hard not to get involved. I could suddenly see myself turning all white.
I went upstairs, took a shower, and got myself together. After the odd jobs guy had gone I immersed myself in English culture again. It didn't last long, mind you, as I started looking at how New Zealnd got there.
Of course, part of the reason why New Zealand got to South Africa was because Australia decided to play with bigger fish in Asia, leaving New Zealand having to negotiate games against Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Caledonia—not exactly Spain, Italy, and Germany—in order to have the right to play Bahrain in the playoff.
But you get the sense, even with Australia's presence in the Oceania group, that they would still be given a run for their money by New Zealand for that spot. Such is the belief and spirit that the team evokes.
They might not have many recognisable players. Fallon and Nelson are the only players that I know anything about. Many are based in Australia's A-League or lowly European Leagues.
None of that means a lot though, because the World Cup is all about having belief in your abilities and playing the game properly. I don't expect New Zealand to win games or progress, but I will be fist pumping when they score.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!