Ethics and sportsmanship · football · Uncategorized

“All is fair in Love and War”: Ethics and sportsmanship in amateur football – thoughts and reflections on a game that sometimes can be much less beautiful than it deserves to be!

There’s a difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”

(Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics)


To understand the role ethics plays in sport and competition, it is important to make a distinction between gamesmanship and sportsmanship.

Gamesmanship is built on the principle that winning is everything.

Athletes and coaches are encouraged to bend the rules wherever possible in order to gain a competitive advantage over an opponent, and to pay less attention to the safety and welfare of the competition.

A more ethical approach to athletics is sportsmanship.

Under a sportsmanship model, healthy competition is seen as a means of cultivating personal honour, virtue, and character. It contributes to a community of respect and trust between competitors and in society. The goal in sportsmanship is not simply to win, but to pursue victory with honour by giving one’s best effort.

(Kirk O. Hanson & Matt Savage, Markkula Center / Institute for Sports Law and Ethics, 2012)


From time to time – usually triggered by watching matches live or by observations made when analysing video footage of matches in great detail at home – the numbers and stats take a back seat for me and bigger questions of a more … philosophical nature rear their head.

I have been told on more than one occasion, that my sense of fairness and “honour” (whatever that means) is somewhat overdeveloped and that I should just “chill and accept that life isn’t fair and get on with it.”

I get it!

While I am neither young nor naïve enough anymore to believe that life in general is “fair” I am just not willing to abandon the idea of SPORTSMANSHIP – especially in amateur sports.

To my relief I found out that I am not the only one who occasionally obsesses about ethics and sportsmanship. It is a real issue and maybe we (that is the people somehow involved in amateur sports such as the NRFL) would do well to pause every now and then and reflect on how we approach “our game” ?

Some time ago, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, USA has come up with a nice definition of ethics and sportsmanship:

Ethical conduct is a set of guiding principles with which each person follows the letter and spirit of the rules. Such conduct reflects a higher standard than law because it includes, among other principles, fundamental values that define sportsmanship.


The ROLE of coaches and players


FAIRNESS, INTEGRITY, RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY have been put forward as the hallmarks of sportsmanship which is the opposite of gamesmanship, which subscribes to the notion of “winning at all costs, including foul play and cheating”.

(Kirk O. Hanson and Matt Savage, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics)


It seems clear to me that SPORTSMANSHIP is first and foremost a virtue and a character trait of individuals (players, coaches, supporters, officials) but it can also be a matter of team culture if and when it is systematically and repeatedly substituted with GAMESMANSHIP as defined by the following mind set:

  • Winning is everything
  • It’s only cheating if you get caught
  • It is the referee’s job to catch wrongdoing, and the athletes and coaches have no inherent responsibility to follow the rules
  • The ends always justify the means

The means being justified by winning might be behaviours such as:

  • Faking a foul or injury
  • Covert personal fouls, such as hitting or pushing or grabbing a player when the ref is not looking
  • Inflicting pain on an opponent with the intention of intimidating or knocking him or her out of the game,
  • Fouling, taunting or intimidating an opponent- especially when done in order to provoke them, knowing that “retaliation” is typically being punished much more harshly than any original provocation


In football – as in all contact sports – foul play and infringements happen all the time. In that sense it is an inevitable part of a quite dynamic and physical game.

However, it seems to me that there are 3 very different levels of foul play.

  1. Accidents

There are situations that happen more or less accidentally because of a lack of skill or because of exhaustion (i.e. clumsy challenges, involuntary reflex leading to hand ball etc.). Typically the “offender” knows what they did was “off” and often enough they are the first ones to apologise – no big deal.


  1. Losing momentarily control

These are the “red mist situations”. The (over-motivated and over-excited or repeatedly provoked) player loses self-control and knowingly commits a foul or tries to cheat “in the heat of the moment”. Typically we do not see many apologies after that as a sense of righteousness (or desperation) prevents the player from regaining perspective and acknowledging the errors of their ways.


  1. Cynical foul play

These are the situations where knowingly AND intentionally (!) and even in a calculated fashion fouls are being committed and/or cheating (“diving” in particular) occurs. Of course, we won’t see any apologies or admission of any wrong doing here (by the player or anyone else sharing this particular mind set of Gamesmanship) as the basis of such cynical actions is a complete absence of FAIRNESS, INTEGRITY RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY. What we witness on these occasions, instead, is a form of MALICE, DISRESPECT and DEVIANCY, actually. Cynical foul play is the epitome of gamesmanship.


The potential long-term consequences of cynical foul play

Something that has come to the fore for me this season – apart from the immediate undeserved advantage gained – has been the insidious consequences of players – or even entire teams – acquiring a “reputation” as being uncontrolled or “violent” because of having reacted to cynical foul play.

The laws of the game are clearly designed to prevent or at least contain any incidents of “violent conduct”. As such any behaviour by a player – factually harmless as it may have been – will be severely punished by a sent off and a possible prolonged suspension.

While violent conduct HAS TO be stopped, of course,  a red card and suspension for the retaliating player also means that the cynical agent provocateur – if not equally being held responsible for their provocative actions – has been successful!

Some teams – subscribing to Gamesmanship as their philosophy – may even want to systematically capitalise on the reputation of their opponents by incessantly provoking them and complaining about them on and off the field.

Apart from being excluded from the match (and possibly others), the main problem with such a reputation (also known as “rusty Halo effect”) is that the public perception of such players will become naturally biased. Simply speaking a player with such a reputation will be much more likely to be judged in future games as having “misbehaved” even if they are objectively not.

A double standard develops that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the “known violent” player” will attract disproportional attention from bystanders and officials, thus “confirming” the bias even more. A nearly unbreakable vicious cycle has developed in such a case.

The recent spontaneous reaction of a Birkenhead supporter to a completely harmless coming together of players in a match that was actually marked by great fairness and sportsmanship all round. This person shouting out: ”Here we go again!” was a  great illustration of the potential consequences of what amounts to character assassination for players who have acquired “ a reputation”.


Here is yet another viewpoint on this issue:

Ironically, violations also indicate a cheater’s lack in confidence in his or her ability to compete on a “level field.”

 Ethical lapses redefine the game as not fair; in fact, cheating transforms the sport from a collegial celebration to a cynical manipulation.  Any variety of serious cheating … defeats fairness and guts the meaning of the competition and the meaning of any awards given, especially to the cheater.


There is really not much more to say about the corrosive effect of gamesmanship.

Next time we will be looking at the role of spectators, supporters as well as officials when it comes to upholding sportsmanship in amateur sports.

football · match analysis · match stats · NRFL · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division “minor Final for 2nd Place” aka RD 22 Birkenhead vs Manukau

As predicted, the last round saw a “minor Final” for this year’s Premier Division runner-up position played out between Birkenhead United and visiting Manukau United. Under mostly dry conditions but also with some brief showers during the second spell, we saw a lively game of football, played in good spirits, officiated well and with sportsmanship on display by all involved.

Great to see, what is possible if no one  focuses on provoking others instead of just playing the game “in good faith”!

Well done!

Birkenhead had bigger fish to fry with their Chatham Cup Final coming up the following Saturday. Therefore, the club fielded for this match a team that was …. REALLY young.

First Half video HERE

Second Half video HERE

From Kick off it was obvious that Birkenhead’s players were very skilled operators indeed but also somewhat outmatched by Manukau’s squad – despite themselves not being able to field some regular players. It could well have been 2:0 for the South Auckland visitors with the first 6 minutes but once a shot banged into the cross bar and Birkenhead’s custodian managed to slow down the ball enough with his fingertips in another (1-1) situation so that a defender could clear it away before it crossed the white line.

Then out of pretty much nothing at all, Birkenhead got awarded a penalty. While the call could be called “soft”, the actual penalty shot by  Jack Anderson  (19th minute) was anything but and so Birkenhead had gone up 1:0 – most definitely against the run of play.

Of course, Manukau being used to falling behind early in matches (something to be improved on in 2019, for sure) were undeterred and normal transmission resumed immediately.

Iwa Shaker opened the visitors’ account in the 27th minute for the 1-1 equaliser.

If you look at the Dynamic Match Chart (DMC) it is obvious that it looked as if it was only a matter of time for Manukau to pull ahead as the match continued to be played almost exclusively in and around Birkenhead’s penalty area. Using the penalty call against Manukau as the yardstick, more such calls could have been expected, maybe, but none were forthcoming.

In fact, Birkenhead’s youngsters pulled a fast break on their visitors and again – against the run of play – the final shot from the ensuing 1-1 situation was very skilfully slotted past the sprawled out Manukau keeper by Matthew Banks for the 2:1 home team lead 42nd minute.

Their jubilations were rather short lived, though, as Manukau’s Iwa Shaker – in injury time of course (45+2 minutes) – pulled the match back for the 2-2 Halftime score.


The DMC for the second half demonstrates that the match was dead even between the teams – in regards to territory (PRESSURE).

Manukau, however, augmented their quantitative output now with even more quality in finishing and that proved simply too much for Birkenhead’s players. The visitors took the 3:2 lead only 50 seconds from Kick off and it was Golden Boot winner Sanni Issa who finished his season in style with an absolutely unstoppable screamer of a shot.

Then it was Micah Lea’alafa’s time to shine by adding 2 more goals of his own – both of them quite difficult to stop by any keeper, really (55th and 68th minute).

5:2 was the final score with the home team not being able to place a single shot on target during the second half. Birkenhead’s youngsters still played well… and fair and without letting their frustration clouding their judgments and therefore allowed for a match that was noteworthy for high class football in every respect.


With this win, Manukau United  became the runners-up in the 2018 NRFL Premier Division, beaten by two points only by successful title defenders Onehunga Sports.

NOT. THAT. BAD. AT. ALL.  for a club in their inaugural season but still leaving just that little bit of wriggle room above that will make everyone around Centre Park hungry for more in 2019 and beyond.

Let’s hope that certain stereotypes and palpable prejudice towards the new South Auckland football powerhouse will start to fade away over time and thus allow EVERYONE to see that Manukau United’s team is just another good football team – this year even a bit better than most other and far more established clubs.

But, more importantly, it is a football team that is categorically NOT worse than anyone else out there in any shape or form – no matter what the rumours say.

Perceptions and reputation matter and cognitive biases also unfortunately matter in decision making on and off the field of play and it would be my hope that every decision maker is aware of such biases and has the will and the support on how to overcome them in order to create a fair and level playing field for everyone – no matter which particular corner of Auckland they hail from.

Birkenhead United even slipped to fourth (on goal difference) as East Coast Bays ended their deeply disappointing end-of-season-run with another hefty 8 nil loss to fellow newcomers/returnees Western Springs who thus also made it into the top three on the final table.

Good Luck to Birkenhead’s “A-Team” that will compete in coming Saturday’s Chatham Cup Final against Western Suburbs (Wellington)!!

football · goal keeping · match analysis · match stats · NRFL · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division Rd 19: Hamilton Wanderers vs Manukau United 1-3 – A Master Class in tenacity

Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, was the first stop of Manukau United’s frantic end of season tour comprising 3 away games in 8 days.

This was these teams’ fourth encounter this season as they had already played Rd 8 NRFL at Mangere Centre Park (4-3 win to Manukau), then had met for a Round 4 Chatham Cup match in Hamilton that was abandoned after one hour (with Manukau in the lead) – then had met again to replay THAT match (3:1 win for Manukau if memory serves correctly).

With both teams still in the running for the Premier NRFL title – at least mathematically and contingent on a late season Onehunga slip-up – a lot was riding on this match for either side.


The conditions were damp with an occasional little bit of drizzle – just to make the surface a bit more slippery as a number of players found out during the match which took place outside of the actual stadium on a well prepared pitch.

The first 12 to 15 minutes saw neither team gaining an advantage as the game unfolded pretty much between the respective penalty areas.

Sometimes, low PRESSURE scores (i.e. meaningful penalty area intrusions) indicate uneventful games because neither team tries to take the initiative. Sometimes, low PRESSURE scores mean that a very intense and interesting midfield tussle for supremacy has taken place.

This match was of the second variety.

In the 13th minute the Wanderers fans and supporters were treated to another episode of the ever so popular Tommy Semmy Show.  It was him  – who else!? – who broke the initial deadlock.

Watching his goal developing in super slow motion is strangely fascinating as one can appreciate just how complex football can be when you break it down into its constituents – moment by moment.

  1. First, Semmy is sent off with a nice forward pass by one of his team mates.
  2. Usain Bolt like, he then starts to outsprint two Manukau players and has pulled clear at the moment Manukau’s keeper decided to come out as it looked like a 1-1 situation was happening.
  3. One of the two chasing Manukau players realised what was happening and turned away from the impending melee in order to cover the goal line.
  4. At the moment the keeper arrives, Semmy stops to finally touch and control the ball, managing to outflank the keeper in the process – who keeps his wits about him by not doing anything that could be misinterpreted as a bookable offence – and who goes down for a fraction of a second.
  5. Semmy then gets around the Manukau defender who slips on the greasy surface.
  6. Now – as the keeper is already back on his feet and on his way back into position – another Manukau player is entering the scene, yet also goes down and is thus rounded by Semmy.
  7. While this is happening , the keeper has to jump over his own player who had just gone down in his attempt to make it back to the line.
  8. Semmy makes a final turn and takes a precise shot past the covering defender, just before a fourth Manukau player is on him and before the keeper is back to do anything about it.

Hats off to Tommy Semmy, who showed why he is the closest challenger to Manukau’s Sanni Issa for the Golden Boot trophy!

In hindsight, of course,  it would have been better for the keeper to stay on the line, although, when he made the decision not to…?  Lesson learned and valuable experience gained for Manukau’s 19 year old custodian Danyon Dvorak in his third full match appearance for the South Auckland team.

Then, his Wanderers counterpart, Cory Townsend – even younger at only 17 – also felt the heat of NRFL Premier Division football as he was simply powerless against a header by Manukau’s Iwa Shaker. A pinpoint cross by Prince Quansah saw a completely unmarked Shaker connect from inside the 6 yard box (with Andre Estay lurking right behind him as well) for the 1:1 equaliser in the     minute.

Another Manukau shot during the middle period of the first half went past the goal.

The match had turned into a seesawing battle now with both teams pushing forward.

It was Wanderers’ Bayliss, who produced the best shot of the match from quite some distance at about the 30th minute, the quality of which was, however, matched by Dvorak’s flying save to preserve the score.

This moment seemed to have poked Manukau into action even more as the remaining 18 minutes of the first half “belonged to them” as the match now fully shifted into and around the Wanderers’ penalty area.

Townsend recorded a good save of a medium quality shot (i.e. powerful but aimed at him) before the referee pointed to the spot due to a hand ball a few minutes later.

Andre Estay sent Hamilton’s keeper the wrong way and calmly slotted in for the visitors’ 2:1 lead just before half time.

1st Half Video highlights HERE

Dynamic Match Chart 1st Half:



The second half began as the first had ended with Manukau quickly taking the initiative in trying to put this match beyond reach for the home team.

Sure enough, a tight pass across the goal face was deflected by Townsend. On many occasions, this would have been recorded as a successful “intercept” by the FNB data gatherer. However, the ball was  still a free agent and right in front of Estay who did not needed to be asked twice and calmly lopped the ball past  the desperate follow-up lunge of the keeper and into the net for the 3:1 Manukau lead.

Then the match dynamic changed completely with the Wanderers intruding threateningly no fewer than 23 times into the visitors’ penalty area while they mustered no more than another 4 such moments during the remaining 40 minutes of match time.

Manukau’s cause wasn’t helped by twice goal scorer Estay being sent off for…..


Oh well, Manukau is no stranger to defending strongly – attacking even – when down in numbers. And so it was another Master Class in tenacity by the South Auckland team until the final whistle.

As usual, everyone demonstrated exemplary discipline and work ethic and this made it very hard for the Wanderers to take many shots on target.

Manukau kept staunchly defending with pretty much everyone chipping in when needed to defend the Manukau white line inside their own penalty area. This was how another 2 promising efforts by the Wanderers were blocked by Manukau players as well.

Hamilton’s Townsend showed a nice bit of tenacious defending himself when he managed to hassle and jostle Iwa Shaker away from the goal mouth and to the side of the penalty area.


The final whistle came in the 95th minute – or thereabouts – and with it came the realisation that Manukau United in their inaugural season with two more games in the next 7 days are still not out of the title race – although – with Onehunga producing a convincing win of their own that day – it is now more likely that we might see a “final” between Chatham Cup finalist Birkenhead United and Manukau United for the runner-up position, instead.

2nd half video highlights HERE

The KPI match table shows that it was a real gutsy team effort – once again – that carried Manukau to victory in this match against a strong Hamilton Wanderers team who created quite a bit of a territorial advantage (61% to 39%) – especially in the second half – and deservedly find themselves also in the upper part of the table.

MANHAM table

7 more days to go.  Birkenhead will have an advantage, in that Manukau first have to play Three Kings  – again – on Wednesday night.

No matter what happens until Saturday night, Kevin Fallon and his team at Manukau United have already proven that South Auckland Football can be successful – and very attractive to watch at that – on the highest level of the game (of genuine club based football) in this country!

and isn’t that something!?


football · goal keeping · match analysis · match stats · NRFL · officiating · Pressure · Quality Shots · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division: Manukau United vs Three Kings United 2-2

Looking at the KPI comparison table and the Dynamic Match Charts (DMC) for the first and second half of this match one can see that Manukau United created a territorial advantage for themselves – especially after the dismissal of a Three Kings player and then especially in the last quarter of the game.


However, we can also see that Three Kings did a very good job coming out of the starting gate quicker than the home team and then holding on despite being one player down between the 34th and 66th minute and again between the 79th minute and the final whistle (94th  minute)!


First things first, and I am pleased to report that this match was very well officiated – as was the preceding meeting of the Reserves teams!

HERE and HERE are video highlights of the first and second half respectively.

It was TK’s Horace James who surprised everyone when he took a very well placed, looping header (i.e. C1SOT) into the back of Manukau’s net as early as the 4th minute. Not a good start for the home team, obviously.

Shortly after TK’s keeper Liam Anderson (of Waitakere United pedigree) produced a brilliant flying save of Manukau’s first High Quality shot on target – probably his very best moment of this match.

After that the game was going swiftly back and forward with 7 shots being either blocked inside the penalty area or going high and wide across both ends of the pitch.

Then it was Three Kings who took more and more of the initiative and subsequently produced a string of 4 unanswered efforts on target. While the first one was a medium quality shot, easily dealt with by Manukau’s keeper the next one was a screamer to the inside of the goal frame – again by Horace James – and so the visitors had taken the 2:0 lead at Centre Park after only  22 minutes.

A couple more medium quality efforts on target showed that TK were not happy to rest on their lead but were pushing for more against a little ragged looking Manukau outfit that was bereft of some key players due to injury and suspension. Those who were on the pitch were probably also somewhat tired after their bruising encounter with championship favourites Onehunga Sports on Wednesday night (a ‘ come from behind ‘ 1 all draw with 9 Manukau against 11 Onehunga players for the last 30 minutes).

And then a mistimed tackle by TK’s Darren White changed the trajectory of this match as the official did not hesitate to pull out the red piece of card board.

Manukau pounced on this opportunity and the DMC demonstrates nicely how the match changed instantly with the home team going forward strongly.

It was TK keeper Anderson again who initially thwarted the home team’s ambitions with yet another great reflex save and soaked up a bit more pressure as well. Still, Three Kings were able to mount counter attacks but Manukau’s keeper was onto it.

Three minutes into injury time, though, Three Kings defenders could not clear the ball out of their penalty area and it was finally Andre Estay who – emulating TK’s second goal earlier – thundered an undeniable shot past Anderson for the half-time score of 2-1 – still in TK’s advantage.

The second half saw a TK foray into Manukau’s penalty area with the first 30 seconds that was mopped up by the home team’s keeper before Manukau took the initiative and started to push very hard for the equaliser.

2 shots off target and another 2 blocked by TK players together with another medium quality effort on target were not enough to change the score board, though.

Then TK hit back with 2 blocked shots of their own, an effort off target as well as a very threatening Free Kick that crashed into the Manukau cross bar. As always with these frame hits – we can never be entirely sure if it had gone in – had it been actually on target or not!?

Anyways – excitement levels were reaching fever pitch on and off the pitch with Three Kings coach Milicich seemingly having a prolonged chat with the officials that somehow ended with Manukau’s Hone Fowler – yet again – being send off to the 10 minutes sin bin – thus restoring numerical parity between the teams to 10 players each for the next … 13 minutes.

It seems to me that of all the players “being verbal” all season long it is somehow more or less exclusively Fowler who seems to attract the sin bin ruling.  A rule, instigated by FIFA during the 131st AGM of The IFAB held in London on 3rd March 2017 approving the use of temporary dismissals (sin bins) for all or some cautions/yellow cards (YCs) in youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football. Maybe installing a comfortable armchair for him might be a good idea at Centre Park for the 2019 season – just a thought – this presumably being a veterans competition and all?

Anyhow, the DMC shows that being on equal (numerical) terms with the home team for a while did not change the flow of this second half one bit in TK’s favour. It was still Manukau who were building more and more momentum – as they tend to do the longer matches carry on.

Three more shots off target and three more medium quality shots (i.e. pretty much aimed at the keeper) were again not enough to bring about the desired outcome and it started to look as if Manukau would have to be contend with a loss in their last home game of the season.

Maybe the ongoing barrage of shots and crosses had worn down the TK players and keeper alike as it was Augustin Contratti who – in the 91st minute – produced a nice header that rather leisurely made its way past friend and foe and thus pulled another match out of the fire at the last minute.

The Manukau live twitter feed mentioned “pandemonium in the grandstand” and I may have had a part to play in that myself.

Yet, the drama was not over yet as TKs threw everything forward in an attempt to overturn the result in their favour. Their reward was a 93rd minute Free Kick from just to the right of Manukau‘s  penalty area.

It was a perfectly executed Free Kick, too: powerful, curling and going towards the inside edge of the cross bar. There, however, the ball met with the glove of 19 year old Danyon Dvorak, Manukau’s number 1 for this match, pulling off the most important (and best looking) save of his nascent NRFL Premier Division career in only his third appearance for Manukau, thus preserving the status quo of a 2-2 draw.

The last attempt from the resulting corner kick went wider than it looked on camera and that was that.

Once again – the Manukau team demonstrated exemplary resilience and got at least a partial result for their efforts.

Hats off to Three Kings, who played the aggregate equivalent of one half with a player down and came “oh-so close” to taking all three points with them with a number of equally good actions on both ends of the field.

With this draw it is still not impossible for Manukau to take the title in their inaugural season as they have 3 more away games to go – but now other results would have to fall into place as well.

As they say – it’s not over until it’s over. We may yet see a “Grand Final” match on the last day of the competition?

football · goal keeping · match analysis · match stats · NRFL · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division: Onehunga Sports vs Manukau United – match analysis and highlights video

So – here is the actual proper analysis of this match.

I am pleased to say that going over the video and doing the objective “numbers” did confirm my initial “subjective” impression of the game.

It looks like it IS possible to become more objective about matches – even when personally involved – as I was – when analysing matches the FNB way for a few years.

HERE  and HERE you find video highlights of the first and second half, respectively.

Here is the Dynamic Match Chart:


and here are the “KPI numbers” for the entire match:


















football · goal keeping · NRFL · officiating · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division: Onehunga Sports vs Manukau United 1-1

The clear winner of last Wednesday’s NRFL Premier Division clash between title hopefuls Onehunga Sports and Manukau United was …. Birkenhead United, actually.

That probably sums up best the influence this match will have on the final outcome of this year’s championship. A win for either one of these two teams would have meant that they could have won the title without having to hope for other results across the remaining two match days – and a number of catch-up games – to help them.

Regarding Wednesday night, I believe it is fair to say that Onehunga lost 2 points in the balance of the entire match while Manukau most definitely won one.

I say this because Onehunga produced more quality shots on target (almost all in first half, though) and dominated territory (extremely so in the second half).

What’s more, Onehunga had first one (after 53 minutes) and then two (after 63 minutes) more players on the pitch than Manukau for a significant portion of the game.

So, the KPIs (only my guess at this stage!) – together with pretty much everything else – was lined up in Onehunga’s  favour and all that was needed was to “collect” on this huge advantage.

That, however, they could not do.

What cold, hart KPIs will never fully capture,  is the spirit and the heart of a team. And it was this “never die” attitude across the entire Manukau team – especially what was left of it after 1 hour – that kept Onehunga from “cashing in” and taking all three points.

The impressive way in which all 10 – then 9 – Manukau players ran, tackled and fought their hearts out was a testament to the sheer determination of a team that refuses to give up and lie down. Game after game they give their all to overcome each and any obstacles being placed in their way during their inaugural season, instead.  Manukau’s first keeper Jono Mannes provided a good example of this positive attitude  with a string of fantastic saves during the first half.

Manukau fully deserved to take this point from this epic battle as they even managed to get an equaliser while down two players (Hone Fowler 71st minute)and then to hang on until the final whistle deep into stoppage time. Truth be told – in the end – Onehunga was actually luckier to get their point.

This also, because Onehunga’s players utterly lacked the composure to utilise their numerical advantage in the second half. As the minutes slipped away it was Onehunga’s players that actually lost their shape completely and very nearly conceded a goal at the very end of the match.

Despite this heroic – and given the circumstances – very successful effort of Manukau’s team there was also disquiet amongst the supporters’ jubilations at the end of the match.

It is tiresome to even mention the officiating anymore – and overall – personally I was not unhappy with it!  Yet – once again – potentially match deciding decisions against Manukau – such as the red card against their keeper – can euphemistically be described as “harsh”.

Thankfully, Manukau’s Reserve keeper – despite his relatively young age – proved to be reasonably unflappable when suddenly thrown into the red hot cauldron that was the second half of this match.

There was a deep, hidden irony in RGK Danyon Dvorak proving in this exact very spot (i.e. the southern end of McLennan Park, Papakura) that team selections on the basis of actual performances and potential instead of mere “reputation and recommendations” are the way to go.

If I have the time – no promises – I will try to get back to this match’s footage and do the usual KPI analysis. This in order to see if my – undoubtedly biased – immediate personal perception of the match was “on the money” – or not.

I have felt that analysing matches for years would have trained me up to see matches more objectively, even when emotionally involved and even without doing the actual “numbers”.

I hope I can do this as I am really interested to see how far my own perceptions are off the facts about this match.

Keep your eyes peeled.


Anyhow, what this match did, was bunching up the top half of the league even more and both teams still have everything to play for. Next stop for Manukau in their inaugural season is their last home game against Three Kings.

football · goal keeping · match analysis · match stats · NRFL · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · team season stats · Uncategorized

new permanent page added: Team season analysis example

As people have asked me what the use of the KPI system is across a whole season (as opposed to understanding individual games’ outcome) I have included a new permanent page to illustrate the type and detail of info that can be extracted from the KPIs as collected and presented in this blog.

As this info is a year old and the teams/ players/ coaches are all different I feel it is ok to release this detailed information now as it would have no bearing on the current ( i.e. 2018) competition at all.

Collating and analysing the data and presenting it in this form would have taken about 200 to 300 hours across the entire season but – if used as intend – such “info” could prove invaluable – as it enabled another team during another season/ competition to avoid relegation in the past.

football · match analysis · match stats · NRFL · officiating · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division – Manukau United vs East Coast Bays: Debacle, Drama and debatable Decisions

Anyone interested in the NRFL will already know the result, which was a resounding 6-2 win for the North Shore visitors.

Surely a result of that sort means that the game was a horribly one-sided affair and the home team never had a chance?

Was it? Well – in a way – but let’s have a look


The match numbers demonstrate that ECB were able to create a significant advantage in regards to shots from inside the 6 yard box and from 1-1 situations. These are the two prime avenues to score goals and so it was on that Saturday at Centre Park.

It was one of those days when every such shot went into the back of the Manukau net (=5) and the one out of 2 High quality shots also got in to make it 6 for the visitors.

Manukau scored also one goal from up-close and another one from a High Quality shot.

So – nothing more to report, then?

The hissing and booing crowd at the end of this match were  just a bunch of sore losers who couldn’t deal with their team’s worst loss in its short history?

Well – the numbers are the numbers and they are what they are .. but maybe it can be acknowledged that on two more occasions the East Coast Bays keeper was well and truly beaten – only to be rescued by a field-player clearance on the line.

Then maybe it can be acknowledged that Manukau’s team was stretched  to the max due to injuries and suspensions and also tired because this was their third match in 8 days (and one of them going over 120 minutes as well) and played their heart out.

And then, maybe , it can be acknowledged that the crowd’s hissing and booing’s origin lay in an ongoing stream of decisions that seemed to disadvantage the home team significantly the longer the match went on.

When I went over the match again the following day it looked very much to me as if Manukau could easily have been awarded not one but 2 penalties – one early and one late in the game.

But they weren’t…. awarded … I mean.

And as I went through the match footage slowly and carefully I counted no fewer than 20 occasions on which a team either should have been awarded a Free Kick (or penalty) or should not have been a Free Kick awarded against them.

20  debatable decisions – across the entire match.

And 18 times out of these 20 debatable decisions, the outcome favoured the visitors.

That’s 90% of all debatable decisions went AGAINST Manukau United!

These decisions include 12 occasions when the home team can claim that a Free Kick (or penalty !) should have been theirs:

3rd minute, 4th minute, 8th minute, 10th minute, 11th minute, 24th minute, 64th minute, 68th minute, 78th minute- twice (!), 82nd minute and  92nd minute.

Then there were 2 occasions when East Coast Bays can say the same (no penalties, though):

17th minute and 58th minute.


Then there were 6 occasions when Manukau players were disproportionally sanctioned (including an early 10 minute sin bin for pointing out to the official that a previous situation should have lead to a penalty call – no insults spoken!) as well as a late red card for a “foul” that was less forceful than many others, committed, however, by players of a different shirt colour (see above), that did not trigger any official action, at all.

Both teams received 9 Free Kicks against them but not one of the 9 against ECB would have been even remotely as debatable as the 6 (out of 9) against Manukau – NONE. The best indication of that is the fact that the sizeable ECB supporter contingent  was NOT voicing any discontent with any of those 9 decisions – not once.

This was clearly an up-hill battle in every possible meaning of this phrase for the home team and this was obvious to the home crowd who reacted to what they witnessed unfolding in front of them.

In reality, the teams were nowhere nearly as far apart as the final score suggests.

But a nice helping of good luck and good skills on the part of the ECB field-player(s) who prevented  2 goals on their beaten  keeper’s behalf together with 20 decisions (some absolutely crucial, i.e. penalty calls) of which 18 – somehow – all fell in their favour, inflated the score in a quite misleading way for those who did not have the misfortune of watching  this debacle first hand – and the match as such also was drama filled.

Oh – and ECB’s first goal was to large degree the result of the goal scorer body checking Manukau’s keeper out of the way (i.e. impeding a player with contact) before taking the header. To me the official FIFA rules of the game would  clearly suggest that a Free Kick for Manukau would have been the right call to make. (Law 12 1. – page 102, 103 : you can look up the official FIFA Laws of the game HERE)

Instead it was 1:0  for East Coast Bays after 8 minutes. As for the rest of the match … see above.

A real shame!



Page 26 of FIFA Laws of the Game 2018/2019

The 131st AGM of The IFAB held in London on 3rd March 2017 approved the use of temporary dismissals (sin bins) for all or some cautions/yellow cards (YCs) in youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football, subject to the approval of the competition’s national FA, confederation or FIFA, whichever is appropriate.

So I guess, applying the sin bin rule,  makes the NRFL a grassroots, veterans, youth or disability  competition?