My Margaret Thatcher Moment

April 24, 2013

 “What after all, is a halo? It’s only one more thing to keep clean.”
The Lady’s Not for Burning, 1948 play by Christopher Fry

Margaret Thatcher was very aware of her likely place in history but she was not  into hagiography or housework. Being dubbed the Iron Lady by the Soviets was a red badge of honour  but being satirised as the Ironing Lady went down like an iron balloon.

As a young teacher I once had a front bench view of Thatcher thermodynamics before she became the Conservative Leader. She took over a lesson I was teaching.  

Cashmere High School used to attract more than its share of visiting VIPs. The foundation principal was the redoubtable Terence McCombs, a former Labour Minister of Education who subsequently became High Commissioner and was knighted.

His connections and the reputation of the school he founded attracted more than passing interest. In my 12 years at the school members of the Royal Family visited the school twice as did-separately- two U.K. Secretaries of State for Education and Science. The first, in 1972 I think, was Margaret Thatcher, a member of Edward Heath’s 1970 Cabinet.

I was teaching a junior English class at the time, not one of my main subjects. The lesson took place initially in the semi dark, with candles flickering to background music (Blowing in the Wind?) to ignite some creative writing and discussion amongst earnest third formers.

The Headmaster brought our guest into my classroom part way through this pedagogic process.  I was more than a little in awe: I was well aware of her soubriquet “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”. She would later write in her autobiography: “I learned a valuable lesson [from the experience of abolishing free milk in schools at the behest of the Treasury]. I had incurred the maximum of political odium for the minimum of political benefit.”

Mrs T was an agenda setter and not a spectator. With the lights up she quickly took over the lesson, waxing eloquent. I was no match and couldn’t hold a candle to her. In fact she had stayed well away from the flickering focal point. The Lady was not for burning.

I can’t remember if she had a handbag but no doubt she did. She was already in full dress rehearsal mode to become the Leader of the Conservative Party, which she was from 1975 to 1990 and then Prime Minister for eleven dramatic years.

In the meantime another visitor to Cashmere High and my classroom was Shirley Williams, Secretary of Education and Science in James Callaghan’s Labour Government from 1976.  There was comprehensive interest by the Brits in our education system then. The terms of trade seem to have changed more recently.

One question still blowing in the wind: is Hekia Parata the Antipodean inheritor of the metaphorical Thatcher handbag or did Julia Gillard beat her to it?

*Blinks  Margaret Thatcher – Pt 1 The Making of Margaret (Telegraph)  Bob Dylan  Blowing in the Wind   Elton John – Candle In The Wind (Diana)

 #Lyall Lukey  24 April 2013 My other (even) less serious blog

Belated Wake Up- Before It’s Too Late

July 12, 2011

“The fact that she has never appeared (on the honours list) I think is a condemnation of our government.“  Prof. Graeme Wake*

Our civic and military honours system, in its various iterations with or without knights and dames, has often led to some curious awards, refracted through that part of the party political spectrum currently in favour. Over a long period of time, there have been some even curiouser non-awards.

Short Quiz
Which Kiwi, nicknamed the White Mouse by the Gestapo, garnered the following post-World War II awards for wartime bravery but hasn’t made it onto any national New Zealand civic or military honours list in the more than 65 odd years since her incredible wartime exploits?
Australia: Companion of the Order of Australia; George Medal
Commonwealth of Nations: 1939-1945 Star; France and Germany Star and bar
United Kingdom:  Defence Medal and bar; War Medal 1939-1945 
France:  Legion d’Honneur; Croix de Guerre with two palms and a star; Medaille de la Resistance 
United States of America: Presidential Medal of Freedom  with Bronze Palm
New Zealand: Nil, zero, nothing, not a sausage

Yes, that’s right, Wellington born Nancy Wake, who will turn 99 next month and still retains her New Zealand passport after a childhood move to Australia, is a heroine without honour in her own country, apart from a Kiwi Consolation Prize:  Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association Badge in Gold.

Relative Graeme Wake, a professor in industrial mathematics at Massey University’s Albany campus, says Ms Wake was physically frail and living in a rest home in England but her mind was still very sharp.*

Prof. Wake has recently approached his MP, Parliament Speaker Lockwood Smith, in a new bid to have his famous relative honoured by New Zealand.

See my 14 June 2009  blogpost  Nancy Wake-the path of most resistance* for more on the incredible veteran.
Email Lockwood Smith  supporting an appropriate award for Nancy Wake in the next Honours List.

Postscript  8/8/11   It has just been announced that Nancy Wake has died in London aged 98*. See video tribute below.*

*Blinks  Nancy Wake’s incredible story     8/8/11   Vid

#Lyall Lukey 12 July 2011  My other less serious blog


A Star for Earthquake Tsar!

May 15, 2011

 “We’re gathering everybody’s ideas so we can create an informed and inspiring vision for the Central City following the quakes. This is just the beginning of the conversation – over the next couple months we’ll be asking plenty of questions about a range of topics.”  Share an Idea*

 Like many Cantabrians I was nervous about who might be crowned the Earthquake Tsar.*  The appointment on Thursday of a local star from Orion, the powerlines company that has been in the thick of the emergency response to the series of seismic shocks in Canterbury,  is great news.  

The stellar Orion is a large and bright constellation on the equator.
As the man in the middle in Christchurch the equable Sutton will have more than his share of challenges to avoid polarising people and instead take them with him on a collective journey to the future of this city.

He seems to be an all round good guy and communication straight shooter who is highly regarded by his Orion people at all levels from the boardroom to the staffroom and by civic and business leaders and the wider community. Anyone who takes a $200,000 drop in salary, rides a bike to work and was photographed after the announcement of his appointment in a hastily donned suit plus work boots has to be ok.

He is, in his own words, an engineer who is big picture guy. This is good because for the rebuild we need re-imagineering before engineering. The trick is going to be sharing the palette and brushes.

That’s what is happening this weekend at the CBS Canterbury Arena with the Christchurch City Council’s Share An Idea initiative to engage the people of Christchurch in the CBD re-design.*

CCC has 9 months from conception through gestation to deliver on the CBD plan. The countdown is rather more imperative than the Rugby World Cup countdown clock which flashed its inexorable  reminders in the Square before the February 22 quake.

Re-building a city-or rather, building a new city, should not be a spectator sport. That is why the grassroots engagement process is important. But it must be more than surface tokenism while subterranean bureaucrats burrow away on unrelated plans. 

The sequence is the secret, eliciting and distilling key principles and values to inform the unfolding vision before planning starts.*

The old city slogan The City that Shines might even take on some new lustre if he and we get the deconstruction and reconstruction right, with a focused and shared vision and some radical new thinking. Follow that star!

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 *Blinks  Vid Lyall’s  YouTube video from Share An Idea  Music Vid Follow that Star Logistics

 #Lyall Lukey 15 May 2011  My other less serious blog

Yuriy Gagarin:The Importance Of Being First

May 2, 2011

 Modest; embarrasses when his humour gets a little too racy; high degree of intellectual development evident in Yuriy; fantastic memory; distinguishes himself from his colleagues by his sharp and far-ranging sense of attention to his surroundings; a well-developed imagination; quick reactions; persevering, prepares himself painstakingly for his activities and training exercises, handles celestial mechanics and mathematical formulae with ease as well as excels in higher mathematics; does not feel constrained when he has to defend his point of view if he considers himself right; appears that he understands life better than a lot of his friends.”Soviet Air Force doctor reporting on Yuriy Gagarin*

Ground control to Lieutenant Yuriy…

Fifty years ago 27 year old Soviet Union air force pilot Yuriy Gagarin became the first human being in space – making his own first giant orbit for mankind in a single circumference and spurring America to set itself the challenge of getting the first man on the moon by the end of the decade.

The popular and genial Gagarin was the ideal but apparently not the strongest cosmonaut candidate for the debut flight.  It seems that Gherman Titov was  ranked first but kept under wraps for the scheduled longer second space flight in the series. Gagarin was a much favoured candidate by his peers. When the 20 candidates were asked to anonymously vote for which other candidate they would like to see as first in the space hot seat, all but three chose Gagarin. 

Apart from all his other qualities Gagarin’s short stature at 1.57 metres (5 ft 2 in) was an asset in the tiny capsule of his rocketVostok 1, which lifted off as scheduled on 12 April 1961, at 9:07am Moscow time (6:07 GMT).   

The entire mission was controlled by either automatic systems or by ground control. This was because medical staff did not know how a human might react to weightlessness, so it was decided to lock the pilot’s manual controls. A code to unlock the controls was placed in an onboard envelope, for Gagarin’s use in case of emergency. It remained unopened, though he had already been told the code by the head of cosmonaut training Nikolai Kamanin. There were a few tricky minutes at re-entry when the service module remained attached to the re-entry module by recalcitrant wires that had failed to separate but Gagarin’s admirably equable temperament during strong gyrations was equal to the situation while the module’s attitude and altitude realigned.

Later Gagarin said; “The feeling of weightlessness was somewhat unfamiliar compared with Earth conditions. Here, you feel as if you were hanging in a horizontal position in straps. You feel as if you are suspended.”*

Ground Control was certainly in suspense until after about 106 minutes  the reentry capsule made a hard parachute landing in the Saratov region of the USSR. Gagarin made a softer one by personal parachute in the same place 10 minutes later, though at the time his detached reentry was kept secret because of what was held to constitute a full manned orbit of the earth. He had to be prepared to both die and lie for his country.

There was no slomo replay of his landing to contradict the official verdict.  A farmer and her daughter observed the strange scene of a figure in a bright orange suit with a large white helmet landing near them by parachute. Gagarin later recalled, “When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in fear. I told them, don’t be afraid, I am a Soviet like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!  It was probably a collect call. 

Following Gagarin’s return to Earth he was bubble-wrapped by the Soviet authorities and incessantly paraded around for years as an example of Soviet communist success, helped by the fact that one of his most notable traits was his warm smile “that lit up the Cold War”.

When he visited Manchester in the United Kingdom some time later  it was pouring with rain; however, Gagarin insisted that the car hood remain back and refused an umbrella so that the cheering crowds could catch a glimpse of him, saying “If all these people have turned out to welcome me and can stand in the rain, so can I.”

He was finally allowed to return flying at a somewhat lower altitude but died when his plane crashed during a training flight in 1968 during bad weather, possibly after a manoeuvre to avoid a weather balloon. A legacy of early flight may have brought down the first spaceman.

Though his career as a cosmonaut was brief he left a lasting legacy. His legendary flight into space, four years after the unmanned Sputnik,  triggered John Kennedy’s prescient presidential speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962 setting the goal of a moon landing by the end of the decade.

Before the shooting for the moon speech there was a period of American despondency, with worries that the spaceflight had won a propaganda victory on behalf of Communism. This was not the time for American boosterism. President Kennedy was quoted as saying that it would be “some time” before the US could match the Soviet booster technology and “the news will be worse before it’s better”. At the same time Kennedy also sent congratulations to the Soviet Union for their “outstanding technical achievement.”  Op-eds in many US newspapers urged renewed efforts to overtake the Soviet scientific accomplishments. 

The public challenge, in contrast to Soviet secrecy, galvanised American education, science and technology and military communities and led to the successful manned lunar shot in 1969. There was no seven year hitch, but a couple of major setbacks on the way including a fatal launchpad fire in the full glare of the media’s arc lights.

Decades later the earlier fierce space rivalry between the two titans was transmuted into an age of international space collaboration across national boundariesandacross disciplines on the international Space Station.** World views had changed, not the least because of the views from outer space first experienced by Gagarin.

His photo is the only astronaut portrait on the wall in the central section of the Space Station, said Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield: “Because we recognize that he is the one who opened the door for all of us.”* In the words of Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, commander of the current mission at the International Space Station, from orbit 12 April 2011, “He is a human who made the first-ever step into outer space, which became a milestone for humankind at large.”

A real time recreation of Yuriy Gagarin’s pioneering first orbit, shot entirely in space from on board the International Space Station, was made this year.  The film combines this new synchronised footage with Gagarin’s original mission audio and lets us see what he saw on his trail-blazing blast.*

Since Gagarin’s epic voyage, more than 500 astronauts from countries around the world have left the Earth. Some have walked on the moon. Many, including Hadfield, have lived and walked in space.

A projectile is a self-propelled missile capable of being impelled forward. In metaphorical terms what drives a project is the energy of its participants. At the national level in New Zealand, which projects are our equivalent lunar challenges?  The Rugby World Cup isn’t a big enough or inclusive enough challenge, nor is the America’s Cup, though both consume a lot of national resources for marginal returns.

We need more than spectator sports to engage and involve people. We need worthwhile projects of national significance and a new world view projecting ourselves forward as a nation, making a quantum leap into a new orbit and expanding our sphere of influence globally by transforming ourselves into the Innovation Nation. 

As Robert Grudin, author of Time and the Art of Living put it:  “….people with great projects afoot…look further and more clearly into the future than people who are mired in day to day concerns. These former control the future because by necessity they must project themselves into it…”

Into which  future will we project ourselves?

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**Alert   Dr Jack Bacon, internationally-known motivational speaker, futurist and technology writer and author of The Parallel Bang is back in New Zealand on a speaking tour in October 2011. He was the United States’ lead systems integrator of the Zarya-the jointly-built spacecraft that forms the central bridge and adapter between all US and Russian technologies on the Space Station. Visit    If you are interested in an in-house presentation contact     


Yuri Gagarin- 50th anniversary of the first …  Vid Russia celebrates the anniversary of the first human spaceflight on 12 Apr 1961.    Vid   First Orbit  Documentary film maker Christopher Riley partnered with European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli to record a stunning new film of what Gagarin would have seen of the Earth from his spaceship. This was released online in April 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight.
We Choose to go to the Moon Vid  John Kennedy’s speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962 setting the goal of a moon landing by the end of the decade.   Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield reflects on Yuri Gagarin’s space trip 50 years ago.  Music vid David Bowie “Space Oddity”.  The making of First Orbit. 

#Lyall Lukey 2 May 2011  My other less serious blog

The $64 Billion Question: How to Turn Knowledge into Wealth?

February 9, 2011

“We work hard, we have a good quality education system, but we lack prosperity commensurate with our effort…Our way forward must be based on honest analysis, ditching self-serving myths, and embracing a long term vision with relentness commitment to make this a just, equitable and prosperous country, worthy of our children, and a place where talent wants to live.”.” Prof. Paul Callaghan*

2011 New Zealander of the Year Professor Sir Paul Callaghan is one of New Zealand’s best known living scientists. He is also a marvellous communicator, as the videos below demonstrate.

He was the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Distinguished Speaker in 2007 and he laid down a timely challenge  at the third annual Education Leaders Forum in 2009 with a stimulating and provocative presentation Education and culture change: New Zealand’s challenge for the 21st century.*His persuasive argument is laid out in his book From Wool to Weta*, which challenges us to look beyond the farm and the theme park in order to transform New Zealand’ s culture and economy.

 He argues that if New Zealand keeps relying on tourism and farming we will fall all the way to the bottom of OECD rankings pretty quickly. In a word, we are poorer because we choose to work in low-wage activities: “Tourism may provide valuable employment for underskilled New Zealanders, but it cannot provide a route to greater prosperity”.*

What’s the alternative? He argues that New Zealand’s future lies in emerging industries based on science, technology, and intellectual property exemplified by companies like WETA, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare , Gallagher, Tait Electronics and Rakon generating wealth through science and technology-based businesses and a whole host of small, smart companies we’ve never heard  doing stuff that’s incomprehensible to many of us, but the way forward for the country..

His education and science founded vision for New Zealand’s future emphasises that we should utilise science and technology to grow prosperity and a sustainable future. He argues that our landscape is magnificent and helps define who we are, but as a nation we have the potential to be a great deal more besides than a commodity farm and, in David Lange’s words, a theme park for tourists.

He advocates a shift in New Zealand from a reliance on natural resources to knowledge and innovation.  He believes there are unlimited opportunities, but one of  the challenges  is providing students with the skills required to both work in and  create innovative new businesses.

He avers that  “we fail our children through defeatist advice at school, encouraging kids to drop maths and physics because it might be ‘too hard.’ This not only ensures that those children will never be part of the emerging NZ technology sector; they will also never be an engineer, pilot, veterinarian, scientist, doctor or architect.

If we are to build the society we want our children to thrive in we must enhance our prosperity through sensible investment in education, science and technology, coupled with culture change. The first part is the easy bit. The second requires self-belief and a sense of purpose, especially when it comes to scientific research and innovation.

He quotes approvingly David S. Landes from his “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Are Some So Rich and Others So Poor? “*“Rich economies must defend themselves by remaining on the cutting edge of research, moving into new and growing branches, learning from others, finding the right niches, by cultivating and using ability and knowledge.”  David S. Landes

Paul Callaghan was born in Wanganui. He obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University, working in low temperature nuclear physics. On his return to New Zealand he began researching the applications of magnetic resonance to the study of soft matter at Massey University, and in 2001 was appointed Alan MacDiarmid Professor of Physical Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington. He also heads the multi-university MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.

 He has published around 220 articles in scientific journals, as well as Principles of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (Oxford University Press, 1994). He is a founding director of Magritek, a small Wellington-based company that sells NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) instruments.

Professor Callaghan’s many awards include the Blake Medal for Leadership and he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He is a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (PCNZM). His latest accolade comes at a time when he has been battling a serious illness for many months* while keeping up his manifold contributions to the world of science and the wider community.

As a nation can we lift our sights and shift up a gear in the way we cultivate and share knowledge and tap the talents of our people?

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*Blinks   Professor Paul Callaghan speaking at Education Leaders Forum 2009 Vid  Vid 
From Wool to Weta, Paul Callaghan – Shop Online for Books in NZ    Slideshare  Review of Landes The Wealth and Poverty of Nations…” 

#Lyall Lukey 9 Feb 2011  My other less serious blog

Allan Hubbard: Ancient History?

July 7, 2010

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone:
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none. 
1805 version

No matter how well stocked or shipshape  their financial larder in these uncertain times, the treatment of Allan and Margaret Hubbard is a bone of contention.

Allan Hubbard was pretty good at making hay while the sun shone, but by all accounts he would have been the last person to adopt a dog in the manger attitude to anyone when the financial skies clouded over. With his eclectic portfolio of investments, including  significant interests in dairying,  he was regarded as milk solid as. 

It’s now modern history that statutory managers are managing the financial affairs of the Hubbards and their investment company Aorangi Securities while they investigate allegations of complex fraud. Allan Hubbard was banned from his office of 50 years, which may have been necessary, but must have been dreadfully hurtful.

Has the Serious Fraud Office  closed this stable door because other horses elsewhere have bolted?  Other untouched Augean stables seem much more likely candidates for an overdue mucking out of accumulated financial ordure, but this Herculean task has seemed beyond the powers of the SFO, though lame duck Securities Commission CEO Jane Diplock  is  keen to see New Zealand securities regulations and enforcement strengthened.

To add to the intrigue, Jonathan Botherway, the brother of  Simon Botherway, annointed head of the new super regulator the Financial Markets Authority and also a Securities Commission member, had a spot of bother with South Canterbury Finance in July 2009, the corporate name most associated with Alan Hubbard, though he no longer has a directorial role, being now ‘president for life’ of SCF.

Jane Diplock has dismissed allegations of a conflict of interest in the decision by the Securities Commission to investigate the Hubbards, with the comment that the situation from which the allegation of conflict arose happened last year 2009 and is therefore “ancient history”. On this timescale 1999 must be pre-historic and Allan Hubbard Methuselah.

Whatever the state of the paperwork and the labyrinthine transactions involved, there is still plenty of support-and even more sympathy-for Allan Hubbard in Timaru, Canterbury and further afield than his namesake Dick managed in Auckland when cereal killer John Banks got stuck into him at the last local body elections.

A former Rover Scout in Dunedin and Temuka, now in his ninth decade, Mr Hubbard is generally regarded as still an all round good scout: both a savvy businessman and a generous philanthropist. He and his wife have played a big role in the wider community for decades in a modest way, as evinced by the number of well-wishers standing by their man*, especially in Timaru, by the sixties Volkswagen he still drives and the modest Timaru suburban house the Hubbards still occupy. Not for them the continuing over conspicuous over consumption of some company directors after their investors have been shut out.

If the VW was the people’s car, the major  finance company with which Allan Hubbard is associated was regarded as the ideal people’s  investment vehicle.

According to the NBR* in June this year Allan Hubbard divested many personal investments into charitable trusts. The Hubbards’ personal wealth had already “shrunk considerably” over the previous 12 months as they propped up South Canterbury finance. SCF had to work hard to qualify for the government deposit guarantee and the support of the Hubbards was crucial to its qualifying.

The financial dominoes are lined up ominously. Alan Hubbard’s long and deep particularly South Island relationships have implications for organizations and individuals well beyond SFC. The SFO has not been noted for the speedy resolution of some  enquiries  but speed is essential in this case.  

There is a lot weighing in the balance for a man who has shied away from publicity throughout his long life and is now in the incandescent glare of media searchlights in his twilight years. Nothing will ever be the same again. The financial genie is out of the bottle, no matter how much he is a financial genius and no matter what transgressions, if any, may have occurred. With it has gone some hard earned credibility, the currency of investment confidence.

Most will sincerely hope that the Hubbard cupboard is neither bare nor devoid of appropriate documentation. Even if it turns out that, like most of us, he has feet of clay, many will still hold that Allan Hubbard should have been subject to statuary not statutory management and that the man deserves his own plinth.  He’d be too modest to accept it, or the rich dainties of the 1805 version:

This wonderful dog
Was Dame Hubbard’s delight,
He could read, he could dance,
He could sing, he could write;
She gave him rich dainties
Whenever he fed,
And erected this monument
When he was dead.

 SFO targets Allan Hubbard | The National Business Review – New
Bernard Hickey talks about the SFO probe into Allan Hubbard  Vid Vid Timelapse footage of the clouds swirling around Aorangi/Aoraki/ Mt.Cook
Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around the World  Vid  The most moving musical creation I have seen in years.” Gord Miller

#Lyall Lukey 7 July 2010  My other blog

We’re (almost) All White Jock

June 24, 2010

“He’s fine, he’ll be playing tomorrow…. He’s just resting. I asked him not to train…  Hopefully Ryan is okay. If he’s not, I’ll play…   He’s got a little tummy problem like we’ve all gone through…”    All Whites Coach Ricki Herbert- playing it close to his chest before the Paraguay game.

 It’s just over 7 hours to the All Whites Football World Cup game against Paraguay. As for the last two Thursdays TV ONE’s sports commentator is standing in a deserted rugby ground to introduce the News at 6 Sports segment.  They could just bluescreen in the stadium for Saturday night’s All Black Test against Wales but because they’ve got the mobile technology they’re determined to prove it.

 What’s the first item and the first real live cross? (Though with the agonizing time delays between question and answer it would be better to pre-record and edit). Yes, you’ve got it-the other World Cup. The one we’re doing quite well in, against the odds. The one even more of us are staying up to watch at 2am tomorrow morning.

In the past week the All Whites have done a reverse William Webb Ellis, dropped the ball on their toes and gone for it, carrying a lot of increasingly fanatical fans with them. The NZRU has got cause for pause for thought. Well away from the FIFA fiefdom, the fracture in the Kiwi monolithic rugby pedestal is clearly visible. Whereas the All Blacks have had the heavy hand of expectation since the initial Rugby World Cup-the only time they have won- the All Whites weren’t rated by many at the start of the season to qualify for the Football World Cup, let alone grab at least a couple of points.

With two draws in the space of five days white is certainly the new black . Against Paraguay it will be literally because the All Whites can’t play in all white so they’ll be all black temporarily.

While we’re counting down to kick off let’s remember what’s happened so far and replay the famous goals. A Bafokeng great football moment* at the fag end of the game against Slovakia. Then the opening goal Mbombela bombshell, with Nelsen’s Nelspruit defenders hanging on to draw against the balletic and ballistic world champion Italians.

You have to feel for the Slovaks-Czechmated by the Kiwi’s Lazurus move right at the expiry of three minutes of extra time. Okay, it was more of a stalemate-an improbable draw not a win, not that you would have known by the extent of the domestic euphoria outbreak as New Zealand notched up its first FIFA World Cup point.

Against Italy a few days later the Kiwis displayed grit and elbow grease reminiscent of some of our best netballers. On the other hand the Italians won the diving display hands down and filched a flock of fouls. It was obvious that they’d been trained at the Andy Hayden School of Sports Diving and Method Acting (SOSDAM). The alarm bells were certainly ringing early on and many Italian fans mistook them for church bells, so deep in prayer were they for most of the game.

As The Melbourne Age reported, shortly before the All Whites opened their Football World Cup campaign, their captain Ryan Nelsen was asked whether his team would be putting on a haka to flex the emotional muscles pre-kick off. ”Skinny white guys doing the haka?”, he said, shaking his head. ”Mmm. Very intimidating’.”  

 They certainly found other ways to beef up their self- belief.

Skinny Maori (and Danish resident)  Winston Reid  used his head to net a last-gasp equaliser* against Slovakia to earn the All Whites their first points at a World Cup. “This is the most important goal of my life… I try to get forward more often but don’t often score, so this is great.”  The nation agreed.

In the Italian game Nelsen and his fellow stout defenders didn’t allow tiredness to cramp their style.  Paston was very busy and very protective in goal,  the Italians splaying 33 shots at goal to New Zealand’s 3. 

The All Whites have had to call on the Kiwi diaspora and the pull of the national jersey to field a mixed team of amateurs and professionals to qualify for and play in the finals.  If football transfer fees are an accurate football currency, Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz is worth more than 35 times the whole  All Whites squad.

Whatever happens against Paraguay in a few hours people will remember the leadership and the team spirit demonstrated on and off the field by Ryan Nelsen and his hardy lieutenants.  At the end of both games there were no kisses but more than a few hugs. named Nelsen world player of the week by an international football website, for ”inspiring his side to two draws and giving the All Whites a shot at last 16 qualification”.

Nelsen has been battling a stomach bug today. Perhaps after 15 years the dreaded All Black Bacillus has risen Phoenix-like,  like the All Whites themselves.  Even if  the captain makes it safely from the poop deck to the bridge is  it too much to expect his team to complete a draw trifecta, let alone snatch a win, and make it into the next round?

My head says  to be  realistic and pick Paraguay 2 New Zealand 0.  But I wouldn’t put a bet on it and my heart whispers that the New Zealanders might just have one more escape trick up their white sleeves. The elbow of Godzone? Then we really would blow our own vuvuzelas. 

Win, lose or draw the real winner from this extraordinary World Cup campaign will be  football  in New Zealand, though many of us still put our foot in it and insist on calling the game soccer. 

    #Lyall Lukey 24 June 2010

 BLINKS Pr-print    Vid-Video   So-Sound   Mm-multimedia

Football World Cup 2010: All Whites at finals   Beating Bahrain to qualify 13/11/09  Vid

Goal against Slovakia The All Whites scored in the final seconds of their first pool game to equalize against Slovakia and gain their first FIFA World Cup point. Vid

All Whites’ goal in 3D animation  v Slovakia  Mm

2010 FIFA World Cup Italy(1) vs New Zealand(1)Highlights   Mm