World Cups take on a life far beyond just the matches. Stories and rumors swirl about like westerly winds swooping into New Plymouth city centre off the Tasman Sea. Below is some of the off pitch drama that is getting attention in New Zealand following the weekend’s matches.
1) The inability of Auckland’s transport system to handle the crowds that came to see the opening ceremony and New Zealand vs Tonga match. People were encouraged to come and be part of the occasion and to take public transport. As the crowd began to swell officials realized the system was not prepared and began telling people to go home. Many people with tickets were left stranded and are now trying to get reimbursed.
2) Japan became everyone’s favorite team after the Brave Blossums’ valiant effort against France. Already before they have announced the team that will face the All Blacks, they have been forgiven for picking a weak team, so they can save key players for a winnable match.
3) A New Zealand politician in a VIP box at the Australia vs Italy match has been labeled the Minister for Bad Manners as he booed the Aussies and in other ways disgraced his country with his bad behavior.
4) The English new all black jerseys created a stir months before the World Cup began, but as the numbers on the back began to fall off during their match with Argentina, they became a source of ridicule almost equal to England’s poor performance.
5) Many of the Irish team in apparent lack of concern about their upcoming match with the USA had a good night out at the bars in New Plymouth the evening before their match.
6) Wayne Barnes (probably the most hated ref in New Zealand because of his failure to catch a forward pass in the 2007 World Cup which led to a French try and the ousting of the All Blacks from that tournament) justified the low regard with which he is held by not calling for video review of James Hook’s possibly good penalty kick in the Wales vs South Africa match.
These stories and rumors have fed conversations here for the past two days. Tomorrow a new round of matches kick-off and with them another storm of side show tales and rumors. The fun just keep on coming.