Kiwi True Blues Rangers supporters club hoping for double cup success on Sunday
For Kiwi True Blues Football Club, the Chatham Cup has arrived with perfect poetic timing.
On Sunday afternoon, they will make their debut in New Zealand's national men's knockout competition, hosting Northlanders Central Brown at Anderson Park in suburban Auckland.
Then on Sunday night, they will gather with the rest of the supporters club they are affiliated with at a bar in Parnell, to watch their team, Rangers, take on Celtic, their cross-town rivals from Glasgow, in the semifinals of the Scottish Cup.
It's going to make for a long day - the Chatham Cup tie kicks off at 2pm, but the Rangers game isn't until 11pm - but it's one they are well and truly up for.
Kiwi True Blues are a Sunday league side and one of 32 teams that will be taking to the field this weekend and on Anzac Day in the preliminary round of the cup, which is being held for 90th time, and has attracted 127 entrants.
Team spokesman Gordon Watson knows plenty about the Chatham Cup, having played in the Melville United team that made the final in 2003, and he said the True Blues' entry was inspired in part by some fans of Rangers' rivals.
"The old Celtic supporters club used to be a regular feature of the Chatham Cup draw, and one of the things we wanted to do is put our mark on the competition as well."
Rangers and their fans have been through the ringer in recent years, with the club entering into a liquidation process in 2012 that forced them to work their way back up the Scottish football pyramid - they only rejoined the Scottish Premier League last year.
"Because [Rangers] has been through a lot of difficulty, with administration and so on, we kind of brought everyone together to make sure we kept the supporters club going, and the football team has been a really good way of recruiting people into that, and the Chatham Cup is just a really special competition," said Watson.
"There's an article going into a magazine in Glasgow about the fact that we've entered the Chatham Cup, which is New Zealand's top domestic club competition, and we're just a bunch of Sunday league chancers, so it's piqued a bit of curiosity back in Scotland as well, so the boys are feeling pretty excited about playing in the game - we might get thrashed, but it's something to look forward to, and something to build our community around."
Ahead of their cup debut on Sunday, the True Blues have upped their efforts, training twice this week, and are hoping they can emulate their Scottish heroes, who are seeking cup glory themselves, to cap a season where they have a finished a distant third in the league, with Celtic the runaway leaders.
"Rangers has always been known for turning in dogged, determined, pragmatic rearguard actions and I guess that suits us quite nicely," said Watson.
"When we've played northern league teams in friendlies, we've done alright in that context, and hopefully we can draw on one or two things we've learnt there and it can stand us in good stead."
The team they are up against, Central Brown, were formed in 1977 "by a group of guys who were playing indoor soccer," per their website, which also explains the odd-looking name, that "came around simply by the original strip being brown and central ... as the team was from all around Whangarei".
They play in Northern Football's fifth-tier Northland premier division, where they have begun the season with two wins from two games.
However things shake out on Sunday, one of the two teams will have "their day in the sun," as Watson puts it, though he and the rest of the True Blues will be hoping its them, and that the sun shines on their boys in Glasgow later that night to boot.
Jarrod Smith's two goals led Birkenhead United to Chatham Cup glory in 2016. PHOTOSPORT
LONG JOURNEY TO THE FINAL BEGINS
The 127 teams entered in the 2017 Chatham Cup hail from Kerikeri down to Invercargill, and play in a range of competitions, from the northern league's premier division to the eighth-tier Northern fourth division, which is home to Navy, who will enter in the first round.
Northern Wairoa are the next lowest team to have entered - they play in the sixth-tier Northland first division, and made headlines last year when their debut was streamed by a mother to her son, a club stalwart living in Melbourne - and will fancy their chances against fellow Northlanders Kerikeri when they meet on Tuesday.
Nelson Suburbs are also back, after a four-year absence prompted by concerns over the financial viability of playing away, but at the same time, two notable names are absent - Mosgiel, who play in the Southern Premier League and are the only team from the country's four regional premier leagues not present; and Fencibles United, who currently top the northern league's second division.
Of the 127 teams, there are 63 from the northern region, which encompasses the Northern, Auckland, and Waikato-Bay of Plenty federations; 30 from the central region, which includes the Central and Capital federations; and 34 from the South Island's Mainland and Southern federations. They will play regionally until the quarterfinals, which will include four teams from the northern region, two from the central region, and two from down south.
Most of the 95 teams not in action in the preliminary round will join the draw for the first round, which is scheduled for the weekend of May 13 and 14, while the cream of the crop from the northern and central regions won't join until the second round, which is set for Queen's Birthday weekend.
The cup then continues with the third round (featuring 32 teams) on the last weekend of June, the fourth round (with 16 teams) on July 15 and 16, the quarterfinals on August 5 and 6, the semifinals on August 26 and 27, and the final on September 10.
Birkenhead United from Auckland's north shore are the defending champions, having triumphed for the first time last September with a 3-2 win over Waitakere City.
AT A GLANCE
Chatham Cup preliminary round
All games kick off at 2pm unless stated.
Saturday, April 22: Matamata Swifts v Internationale; Waikato Unicol v Old Blues; Tokoroa v Cambridge; Taupo v Otumoetai
Sunday, April 23: Kiwi True Blues v Central Brown; Rotorua United v South Auckland Rangers; Auckland Wanderers v Te Awamutu
Tuesday, April 25: Northern Wairoa v Kerikeri (12.30pm); Warkworth v Bohemian Celtic; Norwest United v Waiuku; West Hamilton United v HNK Auckland; Napier Marist v Gisborne Thistle; FC Nelson v Wakefield; West End v Thistle (Timaru); Marist v Seatoun (2.30pm); Naenae v Eastbourne (2.30pm)