Sports

Behind the scenes: the Laser Kiwi banner that lifted the All Whites

New Zealand’s favourite alternative flag made a magnificent comeback at the All Whites vs Peru match on Saturday. Jamie Wall talked to one of the dedicated fans behind it.

Turns out the flag referendum wasn’t a complete waste of money after all.

As the All Whites and Peru took to the sun-drenched Westpac Stadium pitch for their World Cup qualifying match on Saturday afternoon, something magical happened. Behind them rose the largest version of one of the most well-known flag entries into the ill-conceived and comical public submission process – officially named ‘Fire The Lazer’, but more commonly known as ‘Laser Kiwi’.

The hoisting of the banner evoked a massive, vocal reaction from the record 37,000 strong crowd. In the press box, the local media fell about laughing while the far more numerous Peruvian contingent wondered what exactly was going on.

The Laser Kiwi banner. Photo: Cameron McIntosh (Photomac).

The giant Laser Kiwi was the brainchild of members of the Phoenix’s Yellow Fever supporters group, who rebrand themselves as ‘White Noise’ when the national side hits town. One of them, 24-year-old Wellington local Patrick Barnes, talked me through the process of making their unique salute to ‘not the best flag in the world’.

Stage one – Conception

The Laser Kiwi team. Photo: supplied.

“About three or four months ago, we decided we wanted to do something – a bigger display than we’d done for the Phoenix before. We struggled to come up with an idea of our own, because it’s a bit hard to do a player-based banner when you don’t know who is going to be in the team. We didn’t want something anti-Peru, either.

“It had nothing to do with what we thought about the referendum. It was more about the way we support football in this country, which is very tongue-in-cheek. We understand that New Zealand is a minnow on the world stage, even the Phoenix aren’t anywhere near being the best team in the A-League. I think that Laser Kiwi sums up the attitude of New Zealand a lot – it’s not the best flag in the world and we know that, but it’s just inherently funny. It has that self-referential humour to it. We know the kiwi isn’t the best bird in the world…but it’s ours. So that’s where the thought process came from.”

Stage two – Construction

Construction begins. Photo: supplied.

“The first thing we did was make the black background. The largest fabric we could get was only one metre wide, so we had to buy 12 lengths of that. We decided to sew the whole thing together to really make the colours pop.

“We made the kiwi first, but the fern took a lot longer than we expected – it was a lot more complicated than we thought. After that came the laser. We sewed them onto the piece of black, but the whole process was laborious. At the same time it was a lot of fun, because we couldn’t quite believe we’d put this plan into action.

“In total five of us spent four long evenings from 6pm through till midnight sewing together fabric, so about 100 man-hours in total.”

Stage three – Permission

Photo: supplied.

“It helped that Westpac Stadium found it just as hilarious as we did, and we’ve got a pretty good working relationship with them already through the Yellow Fever stuff we’ve done. We’ve raised up eight metre tall versions of Ben Sigmund and Manny Muscat when they left the club, so they knew that we could do it. Stadium CEO Shane Harmon helped get NZ Football over the line with it too. They love what we do to support the team, and without their support we couldn’t have done it.”

Stage four – The Big Moment

Photo: supplied.

“As we were about to unfurl, I couldn’t help but crack a massive smile. To see it go up with 37,000 people there, the cheering, the noise – it was just amazing. I mean, except for the people behind it, who couldn’t see anything.

“I like to think the players were inspired by Laser Kiwi, but it’s likely they had more pressing concerns with the task at hand. However the noise that it helped create had a secondary flow on the field.

“The people that saw it loved it, we’ve had plenty of comments afterwards that it was one of the many highlights of the afternoon. Everyone got that we were taking the mickey out of ourselves a little bit, except National MP Chris Bishop. He tweeted that we must still be bitter about the referendum or something, but our response to that is at least our banner didn’t cost $26 million.”

What’s next for Laser Kiwi

Photo: supplied.

“We’ve spent the last four years hoping that New Zealand would come out and share our passion, so to see everyone get behind football for a day was just hugely rewarding. We’re all really proud of what happened.

“We wanted to cut the flag up so it could be reassembled in Lima, but we couldn’t quite make it work. There’s only about 30 guys heading over, and sewing it back together would just be too hard.

“Laser Kiwi will be kept under wraps for now but will return one day. We don’t want to lose the spark by using it too often, but we’re definitely open to offers from the Beige Brigade if they want to roll it out on the Basin Reserve bank sometime!”

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