The unbelievable crowds, the stifling humidity and the pounding heat of the Honiara sun are all part of the mythology of playing at Lawson Tama Stadium which is passed down from team to team.
For New Zealander Ryan Verney, everything he’s ever heard about playing in this hallowed ground made scoring his debut goal for country even more special.
“It was just sheer happiness that I put the team in the lead and it was just a good start to the tournament for us,” Verney said of opening the scoring for New Zealand in their 8-0 rout of Vanuatu on the opening day of the OFC U-16 Championship.
“I’m really happy that I got the first goal.”
Not only was it a good start for Verney on a personal level, but it was really the first step in an outstanding all round performance from the team.
On top of that, for most of this squad it’s their first international outing, which Verney said is something special in itself.
“It’s was a really good experience going out there for New Zealand, the first international match is a new experience for me,” he stated.
“Standing out there while the national anthem is being played – it’s just a real honour to be playing for my country.
The Auckland-based midfielder plays for Onehunga Sport, switching between the first team and reserves, and has noticed a difference between playing for club and playing for country.
“It’s another level of intensity,” he said.
“Every player here is just top level with New Zealand, and we’re playing some very good competition here.”
Next up for Verney and his compatriots is an important match against their hosts, Solomon Islands.
Given they’ve already experienced big crowds just for their training matches, New Zealand are preparing for a big turnout for this encounter.
“They’re a good side,” he said of the Solomon Islands.
“We watched the first half of their game against Papua New Guinea and thought they had some fast strikers, good dribbling.
“It will be a tough game, but we’re ready for it.”