Fifa Club World Cup record to be another feather in Auckland City veteran Emiliano Tade's cap
Argentine, who went from dish-washer to record goalscorer in New Zealand’s national league, is not done yet as he is one match away from breaking record for most appearances at continental tournament
On Wednesday, should he line up for Auckland City against Al Jazira, Emiliano Tade will move to within one match of the record for appearances at the Fifa Club World Cup.
He has already played in six iterations of the tournament, dating back to 2011, a mark only teammate Angel Berlanga can claim to share.
As an Argentine and a Boca Juniors supporter growing up, Tade appreciates perhaps better than most the significance of the event, remembering time spent watching his boyhood club contest the pre-rebrand Intercontinental Cup.
In 2000, Boca won against Real Madrid, then AC Milan in 2003.
Seven years later, aged 22 and tired of studying law in Argentina, Tade moved to New Zealand. He washed dishes to make ends meet, to save to go travelling.
But then he was picked up by Auckland City. With eighteen months of relocating, he was competing at the Club World Cup himself.
“One of those highlights I have in life,” Tade says now, sitting in his Dubai hotel room, days out from another crack at the tournament.
“Being the first Club World Cup and knowing what it was, because I’m a Boca Juniors fan and seeing them playing every time they went to the Intercontinental Cup, it was huge. And then I was there. It was just a very overwhelming moment in my life.
“For my family, probably it was the biggest thing. For my friends, it was just: ‘what the hell is going on here? Who is that guy? That guy who was just playing with us a few months ago is playing on that big stage, in that tournament’.
"It also it makes you realise so many things in life. I guess coming back home it didn’t make the gap that big, you know?”
The gap must have felt considerably wider by 2014. Having only once before got past the first round, Auckland won their opening two matches, then pushed San Lorenzo, the South American champions, to extra-time in the semi-final.
Tade assisted Berlanga not long after the hour to level the scores at 1-1. Auckland eventually lost 2-1, but the amateur club from New Zealand had nearly pulled off the seemingly impossible.
For a boy from the modest town of Santiago del Estero, the experience rates pretty prominently on his highlights reel, too.
“Probably my favourite was just the whole game, the build-up and the moment we were playing against San Lorenzo,” Tade says.
“Being Argentinian, I watched them throughout my whole life: San Lorenzo’s one of the biggest clubs in Argentina, the Copa Libertadores champions.
"For me, some of the players were huge. They are legends in Argentina. And there was me, playing against them and the fans singing along the whole game. It was an unbelievable moment.
“The response from home was huge. I went back after the tournament and I was like, ‘did I miss something here? Or what’s just happened in between?’
"Because one day I went back home I was just a normal guy and the next I come back and there was some moments that I was like, ‘surely there was something I missed or that I didn’t understand?’.
“I was not expecting the media attention at all. It was a crazy situation.”
Crazy could well describe Tade’s ascent from dish-washer to the record goalscorer in New Zealand’s national league. He has 91 goals in 159 appearances for Auckland in all competitions since joining from Team Wellington in 2011.
He has reached double figures already for goals this season – he attributes that to the team’s fine form – as Auckland sit top of the table, three points ahead of defending champions Wellington.
Turn out against Jazira in Al Ain on Wednesday as the Club World Cup kicks off, and Tade moves to double figures also in matches played – the joint-highest for anyone representing a New Zealand club.
Reach an 11th appearance, and he joins a group of three including Egypt’s Mohamed Aboutrika as the most-capped players in tournament history. Little wonder Tade refers to his journey to this point as fairytale stuff.
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“It’s quite a funny one, or one that’s sort of like a movie in some ways,” he says, smiling. “I was studying law in Argentina and then suddenly you get to one of those points where you don’t get as much as you expect or you want from your life.
“I needed a change. I wanted to travel, experience new things, learn new languages and cultures and ended up, for some reason, going to New Zealand. I didn’t know much about the country apart from the All Blacks.
“I was washing dishes to pay my expenses and my rent and to also save some money to travel around the world. Then I found football for one of those coincidences in life.
“It became more and more serious, I got picked by one of the first-division clubs and then by Auckland City, who were the club to play for.
"After a year and a half I ended up playing semi-professional football, as well playing a first Club World Cup. It was just too much in a very short time. It was a very intense rollercoaster of emotions.
“Every time I think about it I remember things, but every time I speak about it I feel like I’m talking about someone else and not me. It feels like one of those stories that normally you only hear in your life.”
Tade wants to add another chapter this month. Defeat Jazira in the play-off and Auckland, contesting a record ninth Club World Cup, move to within one match of meeting Real Madrid in Abu Dhabi next week.
Tade expects Jazira to be similar in style and structure to the many Japanese teams he has encountered at this stage of the tournament – “it’s the best football I’ve ever faced in my life” – yet he and his teammates are confident as well as realistic.
As one of the most experienced of the Auckland squad, Tade will implore his teammates to forget about the resumes and the reputations of their opponents on Wednesday. And anyway, what transpired three years ago has convinced the Oceania champions to believe.
AUCKLAND CITY'S PAST RECORD:
2006 – Lose opening play-off and then fifth-placed play-off to finish sixth
2009 – Win opening match but lose in quarter-final. Win fifth-placed play-off
2011 – Lose opening play-off
2012 – Lose opening play-off
2013 – Lose opening play-off
2014 – Win opening play-off and quarter-final but lose in semis. Win third-placed play-off
2015 – Lose opening play-off
2016 – Lose opening play-off
“The big one was 2014 when nobody expected us to do as well as we did,” Tade says. “After that Club World Cup, we had not the pressure, but the responsibility to keep carrying that competitiveness that we put out there in Morocco.
“I guess after a few Club World Cups already you know what to expect, when to start managing your emotions, your feelings. I’m actually very excited, just the fact it’s in a new country for us as well.
“It brings a lot of feelings that you’re not used to. Especially because you know it could be only one game and also because you know how big the tournament is.
"Preparing for just that game, it means working hard for such a long period of time, which makes it even more exciting. It brings something special to it.”
Published: December 5, 2017 11:34 AM