When it comes to international supporters of Wexford FC, nobody can beat the kiwis. In some cases, proving to be more passionate even than native fans, New Zealanders care for Wexford FC in the way they would do for their local teams. Kiwis are known to be a very tightly-knit community, and the football’s club’s motto “Stronger Together” truly resonates with them on a personal level. Perhaps, this is one of the main reasons why there are a good number of Wexford FC fans in New Zealand. In this article, we will meet our New Zealand fan colleagues, and learn more about what it means to be a fan of the “Youths” abroad.
Origin of the New Zealand Fan Club Chapter
One of the most interesting facts about the Wexford FC New Zealand supporters is that their chapter of the fan club was established almost at the same time the team received its license to play in Ireland’s First Division League. To make a long story short, a member of the Supporter’s Trust visited some relatives in “The Land of the Long Cloud”, and ended up meeting another football fan, which was inspired by Wexford FC’s message.
Auckland native, Ryan Smith, was that fan, that would change the way many New Zealanders perceived fans of “foreign teams”, and change his community for the better.
“What made a massive impression on me, was the fact that Wexford FC was essentially owned by the fans, but that was only one of the factors that made me dedicate myself to creating a New Zealand chapter of the Wexford FC. The message of “helping youths prosper through the power of sport” is a very pure one, and it shouldn’t be limited to only one region or club; however, it is because Wexford FC is “operated” by the fans, the message’s real value isn’t lost in mindless politics.”
The NZ Club’s Location, Facilities, and Members
Located in the vicinity of Auckland’s University of Technology, the official New Zealand Wexford Club accommodates over 50 members! Most of them are members of our “Supporter’s Trust”, but in their genuine beliefs, it is not their membership that makes them feel like fans, but the fact that they devote themselves to the same moral principles as we do.
As full-fledged members, fans from the NZ chapter attend special annual events held by the Supporter’s Club. Wexford-native members help arrange the entire trip for their NZ colleagues and make sure that they have everything they need upon arrival.
When the NZ fan club was established, it was initially done in the home of Mr Smith. He was the first New Zealand member of the “Supporter’s Club”, and we naturally voted him as the manager of the NZ chapter. A few years later, “Father Ted’s” opened in Auckland, and this Irish Pub became the regular meeting place for the newest NZ fans of WFC. Although the setting of the pub was more than accommodating, Ryan made some significant changes by leasing a large house floor, and officially establishing the headquarters of the NZ Wexford FC chapter.
oday, the Auckland clubhouse offers its members a comfortable space for members to mingle, watch football, and create strategies on what new ways and methods can be implemented for the promotion and realisation of youth football leagues in both Ireland and New Zealand. The look of the NZ clubhouse was completed, when the Irish Wexford FC chapter donated a large number of memorabilia, including pictures, framed player-signed jerseys, and other items which marked the history of the WFC.
The Challenges Faced by the New Zealand Chapter
While the members were still few, things were relatively easy for the Wexford Kiwis; however, it wasn’t until the NZ headquarters was established, that some of the fans there started facing minor scrutiny by other New Zealanders. While there wasn’t any escalation or significant backlash stemming from the fact that NZ natives chose to support an Irish football club, NZ members were looked at by others with an “untrusting eye”. Ryan Smith was aware of this, and some time ago released a formal statement that set the record straight:
“Although it sometimes pains us that some of them (NZ local football fans) would define us as being “unpatriotic”, we’ve learned not to take their comments to heart. While we are also fans of many NZ sports teams, we feel close to Wexford’s philosophy and approach to community challenges everywhere. In fact, once we started organising and attending events that promoted health’s youth and sports prosperity, our local society started looking at us with a lot more respect. What is interesting that after the “challenging period” of our NZ chapter, we started seeing a lot more support from donators and volunteers. The funny thing is that many of the people that help us with our initiatives are “die-hard-fans” of other New Zealand teams.”
Although the WFC international supporters of New Zealand have earned the admiration of its locals, they can’t help but feel a bit sad that they can’t do more for the natives of Wexford. The main WFC club and its NZ chapter are nearly 18,000 kilometres apart, and that vast distance is what creates its own specific set of challenges. It wasn’t until another NZ fan – Thomas Woods decided to implement his skills acquired from the AUT (Auckland University of Technology) and establish an “online bridge” between the two headquarters, managing to bring both Irish and New Zealand fans a bit closer to one another, thus, allowing for a much more efficient exchange of information. Because of Mr Woods’ incredible contribution, the NZ clubhouse has access to the same information materials and streaming services as Wexford members do!
Divided by Time, United by Ideals
With almost a 12-hour difference, sometimes it is a bit awkward to communicate with our NZ colleagues, but we have found that to be more enjoyable than bothersome. Although Wexford FC is not a very large club, we have managed to achieve something that even bigger FC’s have trouble in doing, which is realising a symbiotic relationship with fans from far away. Today, the NZ International Supporters Group of Wexford FC continues to grow in size and gather incredible achievements for both of our communities!