Sunday, July 31, 2005

Road to Glory

It was the 30th of July, after 2 months of planning; it was the day of the inaugural intra St Peter’s football tournament. I waited in anticipation as I observed the gloomy, overcast sky.

At 11am, the sky was dark and showers poured. My heart skipped a beat as I thought to myself, “would all the planning done by Julian and myself go down the drain?” At that point, all I could do was hope and pray.

At 4pm, in the church chapel, the meeting place for the competitors, it seems mysteriously empty, with many people missing. Did the players forget that today was the tournament? At least the skies have cleared slightly and the ground was drying too.

At 4.30, an hour before the tournament starts, the skies reopen again with light drizzles
I shake my head in dispair as I am told the news. Would the drizzle hamper our preparations? But nevertheless my team of four started the preparations of the pitch. Keith and Julian set the goal posts, while Casper and I marked the boundary with string. A report from a friend says that all eight teams have arrived.

Then at 5.30, the teams assembled, with an air of anticipation. The stage was set, the mystery prizes ready to be claimed. Would early favourites FC Cheesebun and Nasi Goreng triumph? Or would the so- called dark horses Oldies spring a surprise and claim the title? Only time would tell….

At 5.45, Tongkat Ali (Darryl, Terence, and Donny) and FC Cheesebun (Yiqiang, Francis,
and I) start the ball rolling by playing out the first match. Tongkat dealt a hard blow to the Cheesebun's cup ambitions by with a 2-1 opening round defeat. It seemed as if the Cheesebuns were supposed to win, but the Tongkats threw the form book out of the window and defied the odds. FC Cheesebun never seemed to recover in that match. The question on everyone’s minds was “would the untried partnership of Francis and Yiqiang click?”

Next up was the High kickers (comprising Joshua, Bell and Philip) against the Hawks
(Sam, Stewart and Casper) The hawks whipped the High Kickers with the Kickers not putting up much of a fight.

The Oldies (Brian, Uncle Yue fung, Uncle Norman and late addition Olivier as a substitute) played the Hobbits (Angus and his 2 friends). The Hobbits' youthfulness won over veteran experience, causing a minor upset. The Oldies were supposed to be dark horses, yet lost to these upstarts. Ironically the shortest of the hobbits could jump the highest, which helped him to score the winner, having out jump his marker to plant a header. Brian was cruelly denied by the post. A pass from the outside was met, where he could be proud of his technique, having connected and striking the ball superbly.
But he would have wished he had miskicked it, with hope of it somehow going somewhat lower.

RK (Julian, Johnny, Natasha) was next, losing to Nasi Goreng (Keith, Nick, Brown)
Natasha was showing more promise than her boyfriend Philip, netting a goal.
Favourites Nasi were living up to its promise, with Brown scoring the tournament’s first hat-trick.

Cheesebun played the Hawks next, where a loss would have ended their tournament.
But Cheesebun showed their ability to bounce back by scoring two quick goals from the start. However, the Hawks pulled back from 2-0 down to level the score with 3 minutes left. But Cheesebun’s superior possession paid off as they soon finished off the Hawks with 4 quick goals, despite the long range efforts of their captain Casper. With the final score being 5-2 to the Cheesebuns. Cheesebun was finally living up to their immense potential.

The Oldies then shocked Nasi Goreng, with Brian scoring a brace, amid chants of "Brian! Brian!” from the spectators, on their way to a hard fought victory over the favourites. In just one match, Nasi Goreng were in the same predicament as fellow favourites Cheesebun, win their last game, or go home.

Tongkat Ali then played High Kickers, with Tongkat rarely needing to move out of second gear. The lost meant the High Kickers would be going home early, with their next match against Cheesebun mainly being played for pride.

RK played the Hobbits next, with Natasha showing her boyfriend Philip who the better player was by scoring another goal. Julian led his team in to victory with a brace as the Hobbits seemed to be more interested in arguing with each other.

Tongkat then played the Hawks with the Hawks needing a win to have a chance of progressing. But fate dealt a cruel blow as Casper, who had been playing brilliantly, cancelled Sam's first tournament goal with an own goal. Their chances of progressing now relied upon High Kickers causing an unlikely upset against Cheesebun.

Whatever hopes the Hawks had quickly evaporated as Cheesebun tore apart the High Kickers with a blitz of goals which had the scorekeepers struggling to keep up. Francis and Colin both helped themselves to hat-tricks, and Yiqiang enjoying a brace,
which produced the highest scoring game of the tournament with a 10-2 thrashing.

Oldies then played RK with Oldies winning 4-3. Oldies were initially leading 4 to nothing. Although Julian had a hat-trick as RK tried to stage a comeback, it was not enough as time ran up, and their tournament came to a sad end.

Nasi Goreng whacked the Hobbits in a winner take all match to close the group stages.
The Hobbits could only argue with each other as Brown added to his tally of a total of 7 goals by claiming a hat-trick, placing himself first on the top scorers chart.

The first semi final pitted Oldies and Tongkat Ali. Tongkat won by a single goal in a 2-1 score line. The Oldies lost by 2 own goals, where the introduction of Olivier seemed to only disrupt their fluency of play. Terence was losing his head, especially after having a goal disallowed. Darryl's seemingly impeccable leadership was holding the team strong.
It was in this tournament that his leadership abilities shone. Too bad the girl of his dreams was not present, therefore unable to witness it. Sigh……

Tournament favourites Cheesebun and Nasi duelled in what should have been the final.
Nasi Goreng drew first blood and raced ahead with the first shot of the match, Nick scoring, which left Cheesebun stunned. Then, some slack marking allowed Keith to steal through and out jump the significantly taller Colin to head home. Brown then added to his tally to make it 3-0. Three minutes left, and Cheesebun, the highest scorers so far, seemed doomed. Three goals in Three minutes, was it achievable? The situation seemed bleak. They were the top scorers, but they had to score 3 first before they could even draw. The 1.8 metre tall Brown was marking so tightly, especially in dead ball situations. That 1.78 metre tall Colin, the tallest member, hardly even got a sniff, while attempting to connect with the crosses.

Suddenly Francis ran deep and chipped a ball. Colin leapt majestically and hit a glancing header which nestled into the back of the net. Then Francis dazzled through and scored a gem of a goal. One minute, one more goal, could the Cheesebuns do a “Liverpool” and comeback from three goals down? Then Yiqiang left his defensive post in a dangerous situation and scored the equaliser, it was game on!! Yiqiang confessed he would not have been able to forgive himself had he missed and Nasi Goreng scoring from the resulting counter attack. But that thought was needless as he scored. Extra time beckoned. Would that be enough? Or would one of these brilliant teams be eliminated by the dreaded penalty kicks? In an exciting match, the Cheesebuns came back from the dead, seemingly out, three goals down, three minutes left. The Cheesebuns came back, knocked two more goals in extra time to seal the game. Nasi Goreng seemed shell shocked, unable to comprehend how they had just let a three goal lead slip within two minutes and concede two more in extra time, without any reply.

It was a good match, with attacking football being constantly played, one for the purists and neutrals, with spectators proclaiming it the match of the tournament. It was in this match that the Cheesebun’s steely resolve showed and the players rose to the occasion, with the Nasi Goreng trio proving worthy opponents. Neither team deserved to lose. As Nasi Goreng could only contemplate what might have been, Cheesebun marched towards the final.

The tournament would end just as it began. A repeat of the opener. Tongkat Ali against FC Cheesebun. Would the result be the same? Or would there be a reversal of fortunes?
Fatigue and elation were on Cheesebun's mind after that miraculous game. Tongkat had the psychological advantage having won the first encounter and were also unbeaten throughout. But Cheesebun were fresh from a morale boosting semi-final victory.

Then the match kicked off. Darryl tried taking shots, causing confusion in the box. But Terence was marked superbly, hardly touching the ball. Colin started the rout by scoring. Chasing a seemingly impossible ball, he just lashed the ball from a wide position and with a touch of billiance, it went in, from an acute angle. Tongkat was torn and hardly putting up much of a fight. So much so that Yiqiang was seen resting on the goal posts as Francis and Colin battled it out for top scorer honours. The match finished with a 5-0 victory in Cheesebun’s favour.

Joy and elation for Cheesebun as they won the inaugural tournament, while only tears for Tongkat. Darryl was devasted, as he sat at the side with tears in his eyes. Colin and Francis finished as joint top scorers with 10 goals apiece. With the prizes being three peach coloured T-shirts too small to fit the winners, meant a s a joke by the organizers. The top scorer (Colin and Francis) were awarded a Christian CD. The Tongkat trio were awarded skincare products.

All thanks to all those who helped in one way or another to make the tournament a success

Winners of the 30th June intra church St Peters tournament



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