Belfast Telegraph

Kiwi hospitality great as long as you clean your shoes

By Peter Bills

You definitely get a more inventive type of supporter in the Auckland suburbs.

Boarding the bus out to Albany, North Harbour for the France versus Japan game last Saturday night, were a group of New Zealanders dressed as Japanese suicide pilots, white bandanas around their heads with a red spot in front.

As you do for a rugby game.

Everyone on the bus cracked up completely at this sight until... er, a group of real Japanese supporters boarded. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, we thought... national insult and all that?

The real Japanese walked down the bus, stopped and studied the fake Japanese and we held our collective breaths. The real Japanese digested this scene, went ‘Aw, aw' a few times and then burst out laughing. Sighs all round.

The bus load was completed when two or three Kiwi girls got on dressed as street girls out of Montmartre. ‘Skirts right up to expectation' as Ronnie Barker once said in Porridge.

Your correspondent studied this scene with due diligence of course.

Some doubted whether the Kiwis would really extend the hand of friendship to all the visitors coming to their shores. Around 95,000 are expected before the end of the tournament and that’s a lot of friends to greet and buy a beer.

But I can report great success early in the tournament. I spoke at a dinner in Auckland last week, told a few jokes and answered a few questions.

Afterwards, when I returned to my table which I was sharing with eight or so guests, I was bombarded with offers.

In no particular order, they included a lunch in the city, a round of golf at a lovely course north of Auckland, dinner for my wife and myself at a top Italian restaurant and finally, a day out on one of the guests’ 52 foot boat, cruising around the islands on Auckland harbour. New Zealand hospitality? Keep it coming is all I can say.

However just getting into New Zealand can be quite a trick at times. A photographer mate of mine had the devil’s own job a year or so explaining that he was only doing his job by bringing in so much equipment.

And as ever, New Zealand is near to paranoid about bringing food into the country. One dopey scribe forgot he’d packed an apple from London or Australia and left it in his kit bag. The NZ$400 fine the immigration authorities slapped him with certainly woke him up.

Then there were the boots. The authorities here insist no dirty boots or shoes can be brought in. They are so adamant on this law that they actually took away several pairs of rugby boots from players arriving for this World Cup, went into a side room and fully cleaned them before allowing the players to proceed.

I was thinking of dropping off all my shoes at immigration for a good clean this weekend. Good idea or bad?

Finally, a New Zealand pal sends me a disingenuous few lines about Australia, Ireland’s opponents in this Saturday’s crucial Pool C game in Auckland.

His words are not necessary complimentary.

Australia — Basic Info: Large island off the coast of New Zealand inhabited by 21m convicts, 2m New Zealanders and enough deadly animals to ensure any smart Kiwi stays well away.

If you meet an Australian in the street: You have my sympathy.

Chances of Winning: As always the Aussies rate themselves highly coming in to the tournament and are likely going to be the Mighty Mighty All Blacks final victim.

Australians You May Know: John Farnham (Best. Mullet. Ever), Split Enz (NZ rock band), Crowded House (NZ rock band), Dragon (NZ rock band), Phar Lap (NZ race horse), Quade Cooper (NZ First-Five), Russell Crowe (Australian actor).

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