Everything You Need To Know About Football/Soccer
I never thought I would ever do a sports-related post. But here goes.
I called my parents in the US to wish my father a Happy Father’s Day. In the course of the conversation the topic of the Football World Cup came up. They had heard the news that 78th ranked New Zealand had managed a tie against the defending champion Italians after having tied against Slovakia earlier.
I told them that, yes, the All Whites had managed two ties against impossible odds and that that everyone was going crazy down here. But my father’s only question was something like, “Why do they call the team the All Whites? Are they really all white? Isn’t that a problem in South Africa of all places?”
You may have wondered the same thing. I know I did when I first came down here.
Well, the answer is simple. It all has to do with the way things get named in New Zealand. Things are named very literally, which is not to say unimaginatively.
In the US a lot of things are named after people. Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio are named after people. And there are lots of places named Washington and Lincoln. Or things have historical or geographical names. The river in Ohio is called the Ohio River and Niagara Falls is named after the Niagara River.
It’s a lot more straightforward in New Zealand. For example, the country basically consists of three islands. The northernmost is called the North Island. The one south of it is called the South Island. The little one further south is called Stewart Island. But in the old days, the three islands were called North Island, Middle Island and South Island.
There is a big mountain range in the South Island with some serious mountains. Edmund Hillary trained there before he climbed Mt. Everest. The mountain range is called the Southern Alps.
Like most big cities Auckland has a tower. It’s the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s called the Sky Tower.
A main road in Auckland is called Great North Road. Yes there is a Great South Road. When Great North Road got too busy they built a parallel road and called it New North Road. There is also an Old North Road.
You see the way it works? They keep it simple down here.
Which brings us back to the All Whites.
The biggest, most popular and successful team down here is the rugby team. They are named the All Blacks. That’s because their uniforms are all black. Really. It’s sort of like a holistic version of the Boston Red Sox.
So most other teams, out of respect or lack of imagination, are a variation on that theme.
You’ve already heard of the All Whites.
The cricket team is called the Black Caps. Guess what color hat they wear?
The ice hockey team is called the Ice Blacks and the field hockey team is known as the Black Sticks. Kids playing junior rugby are on the Small Blacks. Anyone want to take a guess what the basketball team goes by? Yes, the Tall Blacks! And the softball team is the Black Sox (they don’t know what happened in Chicago in 1919). The team that New Zealand sends to the World Cyber Games is called the e Blacks.
And that’s the way it works.
There is a minor exception, but it sort of proves the rule. A well known symbol of New Zealand is the Silver Fern (cyathea dealbata in case you are into botany). Virtually all of the teams use the silver fern frond as a symbol on their uniforms and several of the women’s teams have incorporated the fern idea into their name. For example, the women’s netball team is the Silver Ferns. The women’s rugby team is known as the Black Ferns and the women of cricket go by the White Ferns.
Consistent aren’t they?
One last thing. There was a bit of controversy a few years ago over the NZ badminton team. They actually called themselves the Black Cocks for a while. I know you don’t believe me but it’s true.
I hope this information is helpful to you—at least when the All Whites become a household term in the next couple of weeks you will know how they got their name.