Football round-up: Full time? Think again

British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb have a viral sketch from their eponymous TV show, That Mitchell and Webb Look, in which two World War II SS officers openly ponder whether they are the baddies of the global conflict. An equally amusing but lesser-known segment from the show lampoons the seemingly never-ending football calendar, Mitchell striding around a non-descript stadium limitlessly naming upcoming fixtures.

The truth that informs this premise is great news for New Zealand’s football fanatics. Southampton’s win over Leeds United in the Championship play-off final marked the end of the 2023-24 English domestic football season this weekend. Meanwhile, the A-League also concluded, with Central Coast Mariners defeating Melbourne Victory to retain their title and complete a miraculous treble. But there remain plenty of options to scratch that soccer itch over the next few months and we have picked some of the highlights to keep that voracious appetite of yours whetted.

UEFA Champions League Final – Sunday, 2 June 7am NZT

Real Madrid's German midfielder Toni Kroos.

Europe’s grand showpiece will bring the curtain down on the continental football season this weekend – with Real Madrid taking on Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley.

On paper, there can be only one winner. Real are an unstoppable Champions League winning machine, with a record 14 triumphs, the most recent coming in 2022. Carlos Ancelotti’s men also won La Liga this season. Meanwhile, Dortmund finished the German Bundesliga season in fifth position but have defied those domestic troubles on the European stage, outmanoeuvring Kylian Mbappe’s PSG in the final four.

Summer Olympics 2024 – 24 July – 10 August

Macey Fraser of the New Zealand Football Ferns during game against Thailand, 2024.

Both New Zealand’s men’s and women’s teams will be in action in France when the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad begin in Paris this July.

Football’s profile at the games is certainly higher in the women’s game. However, the Football Ferns are in turmoil ahead of the tournament, with head coach Jitka Klimkova currently on a leave of absence due to an unspecified employment issue. They also face an almost laughably tough group, with reigning gold medallists Canada, host nation France and World Cup quarter-finalists Colombia representing an immense mountain to climb.

The men, for whom the competition is a U-23 event, have a far kinder draw, although France also feature in their respective pool alongside the USA and Guinea.

OFC Men’s Nations Cup – June 15 – June 30

Players of New Zealand All Whites line up before the New Zealand All Whites v Egypt.

So how about a competition in which New Zealand should almost definitely win?

The All Whites will be resounding favourites to come out on top of the eight-team event in Vanuatu and Fiji. They have won the competition a record five times, with their likeliest adversaries, Tahiti and the Solomon Islands, hardly powerhouses.

It’s the first time this competition has taken place since 2016, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, yet New Zealand were initially going to give it a miss. It seems it was originally considered just too-hard basket to go and challenge for regional supremacy. Yet, they soon changed their tune after realising some juicy FIFA World Rankings points were up for grabs.

That umming and ahhing has cost them the services of the soon to be hitched star striker Chris Wood but the All Whites will still expect to emerge as champions of Oceania for a sixth time.

New Zealand National League – ongoing until November

Wellington Olympic players celebrate winning the National League Championship final against Auckland City FC.

The Wellington Phoenix might be off duty, but their reserve teams are still going in the often-forgotten National League competition.

Both the men’s and women’s Phoenix reserve teams take part in the competition, currently at the regional phase, which culminates in a Championship phase and Grand Final in November.

Clubs like Wellington Olympic, Auckland City and Christchurch United have the chance to shine in the big spotlight, with FIFA+ streaming most games for free to New Zealand viewers. There are also the cup competitions, the Chatham Cup and Kate Sheppard Cup, to keep an eye on.

Some big names have gone on to star in the A-League and beyond after initially playing at this level. Players such as Central Coast treble winner Brian Kaltak and All Whites young gun Marko Stamenic.

Let’s allow the likes of Garbhan Coughlan and Sofia Garcia to become household names and give New Zealand’s domestic league the shot in the arm it needs.

Embrace the off-season

Harry Kane

While the drama on the pitch might be on pause, off the pitch it is just beginning. There is a managerial merry-go-round ongoing in Europe and closer to home, Auckland FC have an entire team to build. Will they poach Oskar Zawada from their new rivals the Wellington Phoenix? And can the Nix also keep hold of their young guns?

Plenty of questions need to be answered before the start of both the European and Australian campaigns and that can sometimes play out with more soapy dramatic action then anything that happens on the green rectangle.

That’s not all. The men’s European Championships get underway in Germany next month, with defending champions Italy looking to fend off 23 rivals, including the likes of the hosts, France, England, Spain and Portugal in the battle to be crowned champions of Europe. If Messi-mania is more your thing, then you can catch the Argentine legend in action in both the Copa America and the MLS over the next few months and before you know it, the Premier League will be back in August.

Constant, dizzying, 24-hour, year-long, endless football.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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