Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Soccer back on Eden turf

The last football match at Eden Park - Mike McGarry (left) vies for the ball with Avi Cohen in an Olympic qualifier. File photo / NZ Herald
The last football match at Eden Park - Mike McGarry (left) vies for the ball with Avi Cohen in an Olympic qualifier. File photo / NZ Herald

Ricki Herbert has just faint recollections of the last time football was played at Eden Park - even though he was a central figure.

The Phoenix coach, who will guide his team out against Adelaide next week, was a senior member of the All Whites team who played Israel at the Auckland rugby ground in 1988.

It was a qualifying match for the 1988 Olympics, and the New Zealand side lost 1-0 to extinguish any faint hopes of making the journey to Seoul.

"I remember it felt pretty special running out on to such a famous ground," says Herbert. "It is hard to recall too many details of the match; I know they scored early and we found it hard to find a way back. They were always tough - we played Israel a lot in those days."

Alongside Herbert were stalwarts such as Clint Gosling, Ceri Evans, Grant Turner and Duncan Cole and the team was coached by Kevin Fallon. Israel featured ex-Liverpool defender Avi Cohen, as well as the curiously named Avi Cohen II, along with Roni Rosenthal - still most famous for an extraordinary miss against Aston Villa while playing for Liverpool in 1992.

While Mount Smart was the spiritual home of football in the 1980s, the All Whites got used to playing around the country. In 1988 alone they played at Tauranga Domain, Nelson Park (Hastings), Athletic Park, Western Springs, Lower Hutt Recreation Ground, QEII Stadium (Christchurch) and Dunedin's Caledonian Ground.

The All Whites have played two other matches at Eden Park in their history, both ending in heavy defeats. They met South Africa there in 1947 and lost 4-1.

Ten years later Eden Park hosted a match between the All Whites and a powerful F.K Austria outfit.

The Austrians won 7-1 in Auckland and a week later a Wellington crowd witnessed exactly the same score.

- Herald on Sunday

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