A Northland football tradition is about to find fame in Italy's best-known sports newspaper.
Every year since 1991, Italian-born football fanatic Stefano Virgili and his wife, Lyndsey Johanson, have hosted the world's first football game of the year at Kahoe Farms Hostel, their backpackers' lodge on State Highway 10 north of Kaeo.
The New Year's Eve tournament is played at the floodlit "Kahoe Stadium" - from which sheep and kunekune pigs have to be shooed before kick-off - with teams of four barefoot players playing 12-minute games in a round robin.
Games start early in the evening of December 31 with the final played at midnight.
The latest tournament was contested by six teams made up of hostel guests, friends and family, and was a typically international event with players from as far afield as Denmark, Holland, Italy, Germany, Portugal, England and Australia as well as a strong Wellington contingent.
While the tournament is well-known among football fans in the Far North, its fame had spread little further - until now.
Mr Virgili said he had been contacted by La Gazzetta Dello Sport journalist Filippo Gambarini, whose father had heard about the event while on a bus tour to Cape Reinga. It just happened that the bus driver was an old player for Kaeo FC, the team Mr Virgili used to coach.
Mr Gambarini was intrigued by the tournament and its Italian connection, and has written a report which is due to be published soon in La Gazzetta.
Mr Virgili said La Gazzetta was an Italian icon, the country's first newspaper to feature only sport, especially football.
"It's been my regular read for so many years ... to be mentioned in there for football is a dream for me," he said.
Mr Virgili said each tournament had a star, and this year it was a 22-year-old Danish player, Anders Holvad.
Mr Holvad was on a football pilgrimage of sorts, following in the footsteps of his uncle Rasmus who competed at the tournament 11 years earlier.
The Dane carried his nation's flag in style by leading his team, the Vikings, to a 3-1 victory over the Champions of the Universe in the midnight final, claiming the Virgili Cup in the world's first game of football in 2013.