The early history of football in New Zealand

Football is the most popular team sport in the world and the most widely watched. In 2018, the FIFA World Cup, held once every four years, was viewed by 3.572 billion people across the world. This popularity holds true, not only for a global audience but for native New Zealanders too.

While football may have begun in England, its popularity quickly spread across the globe. This means that, today, it transcends nations and borders, with teams hailing from every country imaginable.

In this article, we look at how football made its way to New Zealand and how it gained a foothold on the other side of the world.

Seafarers, soldiers, and settlers

Source: Pixabay

One of the most interesting things about the history of football is how rapidly the sport spread. While it may have started its story in England, it soon made its way across the world, with soldiers, settlers, and seafarers taking it to every corner of the globe on their travels.

This is how it ended up in New Zealand – but when it first found its way to the country’s shores, there was nothing in the way of organised competition. Players created their own rules, merging various games to come up with the guidelines. This meant that everything from rugby union to Gaelic football had an influence on these early forays.

In keeping with this anarchic way of playing, team sizes varied greatly. Historic reports are rather lax on details, often failing to mention which game was actually being played, or even what shape the ball was!

What we do know is that, during its 1888-1889 tour of Britain and Australia, the country’s team played nine matches according to Victorian rules and two under association rules, showing exactly how much of a hotchpotch early football in New Zealand was.

The Wellington Football Association and the first clubs

By 1890, certain moves were being made to standardise the game and how it was played. These included the formation of the Wellington Football Association, which ran its first championship a year after it was created. Four clubs took part, with Petone crowned winner.

While the rules may have been clearer, the facilities were far from luxurious – nothing like we’re used to seeing today. They consisted of a concrete pitch and little else, where the teams went head to head for the crown.

Among them was the Canterbury Association Football Club, which was the first team to have been formed in 1882. New Zealand’s oldest surviving club is Davenport’s North Shore, which was first assembled in 1886.   

Another important development came in 1891 with the conception of the New Zealand Football Association.

From strength to strength

Source: Pixabay

From this point onward, football in New Zealand went from strength to strength. The country played in its first international match in 1904, and by 1922, had claimed the crown in its first test series against Australia, marking the beginning of a long-standing rivalry between the two.

While New Zealand struggled to make its mark on the international stage, that didn’t stop the game from gaining in popularity within the country. The team joined FIFA in 1948, and there are now around 500 clubs represented under the umbrella of New Zealand Football.  

Not only does it boast a huge following in itself, but an additional entertainment sector has grown up around football. This takes the form of a healthy sports betting sector, with both online and offline bookmakers available.

The former, in particular, have grown in popularity in recent years, as have all other forms of online gambling. As a result, there are entire web pages dedicated to sharing information on new casinos basics, tailored to New Zealand customers; including where to play, bonuses, promotions, and ratings. These make it easy for bettors to find a site that suits them.

When it comes to football in New Zealand, the sport has gone from strength to strength since its introduction over a century ago. And, with an increasingly talented team to represent it, it’s impossible to predict how high the sport’s star might yet ascend.

The early history of football in New Zealand

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