One of the more unusual things in sports is discussion of players’ dislikes of particular cities. From then-Cincinnati Bengals CB Eli Apple bashing the New Orleans food scene to a variety of NHL players going off on how they hate visiting Winnipeg, there have been a lot of these over the years. And the latest one has some particularly notable international and media dimensions, thanks to an ESPN report from Sam Marsden Friday on the Spanish FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup team leaving their base in Palmerston North, New Zealand early thanks to “boredom.” Here’s more from that piece:
Spain have decided to leave their training base in Palmerston North slightly early after boredom set in among the players and their families, sources told ESPN. La Roja will head to Wellington on Saturday, two days before they face Japan in a match that will decide who wins Group C.
Staying in Palmerston, a city two hours north of Wellington and a short flight from Auckland, the two locations where Spain are guaranteed to play until the semifinal stage, was seen as a good option in many ways. Team officials stressed that they enjoyed their stay there and were made to feel at home, with sources praising the people, their hotel and the facilities at Massey University, where they’ve been training. However, the lack of things to do in the area has taken its toll. Families, including some players’ children, are staying with the squad as part of a pre-tournament agreement with the Spanish Football Federation but, along with the players, have found there is little to do, especially in the evenings.
That piece created a whole kerfuffle. Including official pushback from the Spanish team:
So, I may have caused an international incident. Be kind pic.twitter.com/NYvXL0xFFS
— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) July 29, 2023
This also saw the mayor of Palmerston North weighing in, and offering the Spanish team a night out on the town. Here’s more on that from a piece at prominent New Zealand media site Stuff, written by Caroline Williams (who calls this “the ultimate diss,” and writes that “This Palmy-raised reporter’s hackles are raised”):
La Roja spokesperson Patricia Pérez said it was “definitely not true” that the team was bored.
“We have felt like home in Palmy and we are extremely grateful. We have moved to be closer to the stadium [where they will play Japan on Monday].”
Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith was surprised to learn of the ESPN report.
“They picked us… We were honoured that they wanted to come to Palmerston North to experience the high-performance facilities at Massey.”
He hoped the team would return to see the “true highlights” of Manawatū.
“I’d be quite happy to show the Spanish team a night out in Palmy.” He later clarified over text that he’d be happy to host them “for free”.
This is not the first time Palmerston North has been bashed, though. In 2005, English comedian John Cleese infamously called it “the suicide capital of New Zealand.” And, funnily enough, several New Zealanders and others on Twitter seemed to agree with the initial reported criticisms:
I live just outside Palmerston North and am offended. One can always go outside and watch the rain, feel the wind, and observe the hands on our mighty Clock Tower tick quietly by. pic.twitter.com/TZAwFEeMF8
— Dr Rawiri Taonui (@RawiriTaonui) July 29, 2023
Palmerston North, New Zealand is literally the polar opposite of Madrid, Spain.
— Nicolas Reid (@Nicolas_Reid) July 29, 2023
I dont think new zealanders really appreciate how unsettling & weird the stifling silence of nz suburbia would appear to people from somehere lively like spain. And its not just palmerston north. Its insane to me that nimbys will fight tooth and nail to keep the dullness in place https://t.co/XKjDtWoFwh
— Francis McRae (@FrankMcRae) July 29, 2023
It's a very NZ thing (not just a Palmy thing) that 'things to do' lists tend to be:
'leave town and wander around by yourself (on foot!! OR!!! On bike!!!!) and come back into town to sit by yourself or (if you're feeling crazy!!!!!) get yourself a tacohttps://t.co/DjWugI8fxz
— Chamfy (@chamfy) July 29, 2023
This also brought to mind a video from earlier this year from a local making fun of Palmerston North, which is where the (satirical) image at the top comes from:
“It’s a mean-*** clock to hang out at!”
At any rate, this is quite the amusing international incident to come from an ESPN report. And Palmerston North can now join the likes of Winnipeg, New Orleans, Chicago and more on the lists of cities blasted by athletes or sports media.