The Greeks were throwing a big party last night after their football team Wellington Olympic won the Chatham Cup and Blind Freddie could tell you who was leading the wild celebrations.
Goalkeeper Nicolas Van Hattum played with a pink mohawk haircut and the dye was still in his head when the victorious team was greeted by 200 passionate supporters at Wellington Airport last night and shuttled to Olympic's Newtown headquarters.
"I'm in the team for a couple of reasons and partying is one of them," the nephew of former All White goalkeeper Frank Van Hattum said.
There are a thousand reasons for Olympic to celebrate.
It is their 50th anniversary, they have been a club starved of silverware, this year they are unbeaten through 25 games and yesterday they came from behind to beat Auckland's Three Kings United 2-1 in the cup final at North Harbour Stadium.
"We're ecstatic. One of the boys has been to The Warehouse to buy some extra plates," Van Hattum said.
"This will be a two-day party and I'll be able to tell everybody tomorrow how many beers it takes to fill the Chatham Cup."
The handiwork on Van Hattum's head was done on the eve of the match by team-mate Anthony Neonakis and though it was outrageous, Olympic were the exact opposite in the cup final yesterday.
First-year coach Simon George was worried his emotional team would suffer stagefright but they defended well and stayed loyal to a game plan that centred around midfielder Raf de Gregorio.
They conceded after three minutes to Three Kings' standout Brazilian playmaker Luiz Del Monte but Miroslav Malivuk headed home from a corner in the 38th minute and then de Gregorio calmly slotted a penalty in the 76th minute. "When the keeper went the wrong way I thought we had our hands on the cup," de Gregorio said.
"This club has been trying to win something for years and many of the people behind the scenes have dug into their pockets over the years. Every one of those people deserves this."
De Gregorio has piled plenty in to his life but this trumped everything, he said.
"Winning trophies always rates at the top," he said.
"I'm 32, but I'm still enjoying it, so I'll be back next year."
There was high praise afterward for George, who has done what many others have tried and failed to do at Olympic.
"Simon George has done a fantastic job. We are an emotional group but Simon and Craig [co-coach Craig Hopkins] have kept us focused and developed great character within us," de Gregorio said. "We came from behind again today. We did it in the quarterfinal as well and [to] about five teams in the league."
Van Hattum added "if Simon George went and coached Petone next season I'd follow him because that is how high I rate him as a coach".
George was part of the last Olympic team to play in a Chatham Cup final, that resulted in a 1-0 loss to Waitakere City in 1994.
"It's a pretty special feeling right now and I was pretty happy with how we played," he said.
"For a lot of the boys it was the biggest occasion they have played and I was worried we might freeze on the big stage but we certainly didn't.
"At halftime [1-1] everyone was really relaxed. By then we had seen all we were going to see from Three Kings, they didn't have a lot more to throw at us."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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