The small settlement of Miramar to the East of Wellington feels a world away from New Zealand’s capital, yet has miraculously come to occupy a crucial part within the city’s Football scene. As such, former notions of segregation that existed between the two have been erased, helping to bring Miramar closer to Wellington in the public perception.
The Miramar Peninsula is connected to the mainland by a thin strip of lowland, where Wellington International Airport is now located. A bustling dual carriageway connects the two settlements, spanning the valley between Mount Victoria to the West and Miramar to the East. As I walk toward the latter, a comical structure comes into view. The Wellington sign is designed to resemble the Hollywood sign, but the final couple letters appear to be blowing away thanks to the high winds coming in from the bay that the city is famous for. Yet the further I climb, the further I distance myself from the car horns and flashing lights of the downtown Pipitea district and the street artists and craft beer bars of Te Aro. Miramar is quainter, slower, more wholesome and somehow more provincial than cosmopolitan Wellington. This hilltop town successfully captures the close-community essence of its Scottish settlers one hundred years ago.
I pass a wooden church, a small-time cinema and a host of familiar supermarket chains. The trendy and independent boutiques and restaurants that are so abundant on the other side of the valley are conspicuously absent here. Small enterprise is replaced by private residencies as I climb further. A high school indicates that I’m almost at my destination; next door is a sports field surrounded by great bushy trees and white bungalows dotted around the overlooking crests.
A cliff elevates along the West side of the pitch, providing banked benches and shade for spectators. The team dugouts look as if they have literally been dug out of this same rock formation. Oceania Football Confederation banners punctuate the chain link fencing, and a handful of parked cars indicate the presence of employees of some kind. A Leeds United window sticker in one of them proceeds thick Yorkshire accents inside the clubhouse that respond positively to my request. “If you don’t officially ask then we can’t officially say no, young man”. Camera in hand, I do my own lap of honour around one of the country’s most fabled Football grounds, before letting myself out, luv.
The David Farrington Park is a beautiful place to watch a semi-professional Football match in the sunshine along with fellow spectators from the neighbourhood. Formerly known as Centennial Park, the home of the Miramar Rangers has been renamed in honour of David Farrington, a former player for Miramar Rangers AFC who also represented New Zealand on the pitch. Long after calling time on his playing career, Mr Farrington continued his commitment to the club, becoming one of the key coaches and also undertaking part of the club’s administrative duties. So great was his contribution to Wellingtonian Football that the club dedicated the ground to him. The newly named David Farrington Park was opened by the Mayor of Wellington Kerry Prendergast on the 1st of August, 2009. It remains one of New Zealand’s most popular Football venues. The small anglophone country has never produced much talent that has set the world ablaze, but it sure knows how to do close-knit clubhouses and pitches.
However, as domestic Football has evolved in New Zealand over the past two decades, the David Farrington Park and Miramar itself have come figuratively closer to Wellington. The ground and the club have become integral parts of a key outfit in the Football scene of the Kiwi Capital. The ISPS Handa Premiership, also known as the New Zealand Football Championship, was established in 2004 to provide a nationwide platform for competitive club Football in the country. The league saw the creation of 14 semi-professional sides spread across the country’s largest cities playing home matches at grounds capable of seating at least 500, with a lack of relegation guaranteeing the participation of the 14 sides year to year.
While the Hyundai A-League franchise Wellington Phoenix FC decided to enter its reserve team, the historic clubs located around Wellington and its suburbs that compete in the regional Central League decided to take it upon themselves to ensure that the characteristic communal nature of Wellingtonian club Football would be adequately represented in the nascent league. Such distinguished names as Marist AFC, Olympic AFC, Island Bay United AFC and of course Miramar Rangers AFC (among others) that otherwise see each other as sporting adversaries cooperated to establish a side eligible to represent Wellington in the ISPS Handa Premiership. Team Wellington FC was born, a less than exhilarating but perfectly functional name for a Frankenstein Football club that adopted the black and yellow colour scheme found in the city’s flag. Administrative, operational and financial duties are shared across the various founding clubs, yet the question of location was next to be addressed. One ground stood out; the David Farrington Park located on the top of the Miramar Peninsula. The once distant Miramar became an integral part of club Football in Wellington proper. Team Wellington FC has played its home matches there ever since.
Team Wellington FC is the current reigning champion of the OFC Champions’ League, meaning that teams from abroad fly in to compete and perform at the David Farrington Park. Miramar’s small-town spirit now extends across the seas, thanks to the Miramar Rangers’s extensive involvement in the city’s Football scene.
Unfortunately there was no match at the David Farrington Park that I could attend during my brief visit to the Kiwi capital. The ISPS Handa Premiership had finished a month beforehand, the spoils of victory going to Auckland City FC over none other than Team Wellington FC at the QBE Stadium on Auckland’s north shore. And work commitments got in the way of my plans to see Miramar Rangers who were indeed playing a single match at home during my brief visit. An early morning weekday visit to this traditional ground was as good as could be done.