Sunday, 30 March 2008

The Soccermania! Fairytale

Went to NUS for Soccermania! today to play for Likoon's team. I invited Ayam, the goalkeeper from one of our opponent teams during saturday soccer games, to come and keep goal for us. And Edmund and Rajesh were there, old timer pals, all of us playing for the same team. There was some really good competition today and I thought it was a pity I couldn't get the usual soccer guys down, but today was somewhat incredible in its own way.

There were 6 groups and each group had 4 teams so each team plays 3 qualifying games.

I sat out the first game with Rajesh and watched as Edmund, Likoon and co. got whooped by a really lousy team 2-0. It was horrendous - not so much on the people side but there was no structure to the play at all, which meant that we couldn't attack nor defend. They clearly lacked competition experience. So I told them that we had to man-mark, first of all, because in street soccer that's just the way it is. Zonal's suicide.

I played the second game and we ended up drawing 0-0. Not good, I thought. For 3 matches in qualifying, having no wins by your 2nd game sounds very very bleak.

But Likoon did the math and found out that we still had a chance, as long as none of the other teams win - i.e. the next 2 matches end up as draws - and we win our last qualifying game.

Our match was the very last one in the group stages, so we sat through 2 nail-biting games. And it was so fscking incredible and miraculous the way the next 2 games unfolded that I actually wonder if it was all rigged or something.

Although the chance of qualifying was there, we thought it was quite a slim chance because in the next 2 matches our opponents were gonna play (we shall call them crunch game A and crunch game B), there exists 1 much stronger team each so the likelihood of at least 1 team winning in the next 2 matches is very high.

But what happened next was baffling to say the least.

As expected for crunch game A, Strong Team A scored; 1-0. Then Weak Team A made a rare foray into the opponent's half and Strong Team A's keeper had to come out early to meet a 50-50 challenge with Weak Team A's striker. The keeper got to the ball first but ended up kicking the ball up high in the air just above him. As the ball came down, he failed to catch it and it hit his tummy (he is seriously fat) and went straight into the goal. Talk about bizarre! Strong Team A then launched a barrage of attacks but Weak Team A held out. Final score for crunch game A: 1-1.

Crunch game B wasn't so bizarre, but we had to sit through 10mins of heavy attacking from Strong Team B and desperate defending from Weak Team B. Final score: 0-0.

Well, cool then. The stage was set for us to get the win to qualify (a draw wouldn't suffice). But we were clearly underdogs, not only in the tournament, but especially against this team we were up against.

I dunno exactly why but the opponent team was perhaps slacking off or off-form or something, so we didn't get attacked as much as we thought we would be. In fact, we started carving out half-chances of our own (although they were obviously superior and dominating possession). Then suddenly, we received a free kick at the edge of the penalty area for a dubious foul on one of my team mates. Nobody thought anything of it; not us, not even the opponent team, to their detriment. Instead of shooting, my teammate laid the ball to Neo and he blasted the ball into the back of the net. The rest didn't matter after that. Gay way to win, but final score: 1-0, against the fsckin' odds, and into the knock out stages!

It then started to rain, so we had a little break. When the downpour stopped, the tournament resumed with the courts wet. Fortunately, we had 1 or 2 matches before ours, so the ground dried up pretty much and we didn't have to deal with the slippery surface.

The next team we played against was also quite a good team with some pretty decent foreigners; some negroes and a caucasian I reckon. But by then, we had gained some momentum, and I started playing on the left which I really should've done from the start because it's my more natural position. I managed to get to a loose ball and hammered in for a 1-0 win. We were into the quarters, something totally inconceivable at the start.

But alas, our fairytale run ended as we lost our quarter-final game 1-0. I only recall that we were getting outplayed and the opponents got their goal cos 2 of our defenders couldn't stop him as he cut in to shoot and score, something specific that I still can't quite reconcile as of now (2 defenders!). But it was okay I guess; the little motley crew that was our team had run its luck so far and the time was up, or perhaps even in overtime. And I was exhausted as I'd played every game ever since the 2nd one.

I just thought it was quite incredible the way things unfolded though. It's things like these... Tell-tale signs that say that something's bound to happen. Just like when a team keeps hitting the post or missing their shots, you know it's kinda like that feeling that it's on the cards they're gonna end up losing. I felt that we were meant to qualify once those 2 draws happened. It was just too ridiculously coincidental that no other outcome was meant to be.

Arsenal created their own fairytale comeback yesterday night when, at half time, they went 2-0 down to Bolton with Diaby sent off, only to bounce back and win 3-2. Incredible stuff. When Arsenal got the penalty (even before Van Persie converted it), I could sense it all coming.

There's no I in 'team'. But there's ME. And MEAT. And maybe 'inspirational' lines like these are for really stupid uninspired people.

Audio Candy:
Dream Theatre - A Change Of Seasons

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