Thursday, March 30, 2006

Final Score: The First Half

Now I hope that some latitude is given when reading these brief match reports. Many months have passed since most of them were played and my memory is starting to replicate that of Thatcherite cabinet minister.

22nd May 2005 Chiyoda: Match day 1

The season opened at what has become our "home ground", pitch B at the former American religious university nestling in the Chiyodian hills. Whilst lining up for the pre-match bow, I realised that some of the faces on the other side were somewhat familiar. In took a few moments for the brain to analyse the optical evidence. It then dawned on me that FC ONZE were another Hiroshima University team*, and that several of my former students were up against us today. I could only hope that I hadn't graded them as C's...
The game was played at a fast pace, resulting in the "father of the team" needing a halfway line rest after one excursion up field from his normal right back perch. Other highlights were Dan arguing with the linesman about the rules** and the Blue 13 moaning that crossing the ball from the wing was a better idea than attempting to nutmeg the right-back continuously.
Someone scored a goal, I forget who or how. Although something about an outside the box shot seems a reasonably guess. DEH won the game 1-0, the season had started well, if not spectacularly and I had only managed to hack one of my former students the once. Unlike Dan....
28th August Chiyoda: Match day 2
This game was our lowest ebb. It was painful in many ways, losing, only having 8 players, playing in hot and humid conditions, but the cause of real anger was that the opposition were the City League's equivilentof Sunderland. Really, they were not that good. Rusty have only won 3 games all season, one of them was through default and the other against team 3 shy. I know it is easy to wheel out the excuses, but when an opposition doesn't overwhelm a team with a 3 man disadvantage, well as the song goes "what might have been, what might have been..."
Hurley was in goal in the first half and Blue 13 in the second. Technically I let in more, but to be fair, we were knackered by the mid-way point of the 2nd half. Our 3 man defence were a bit ragged by this point and not even the cat himself would have saved all of the goals.
It is a bitter blow when promotion is over after the second game of the season. This game was made worse by our woeful cup exit the month before. DEH lost 1-0 to ガラケテぃコ a division G team in what should have been a walkover. My only comment will be this, if you don't cross the ball when there are players in the box, you don't have a bloody chance! Certain players made their debuts and exits in that match...
25th September Senogawa: Matchday 3
If the last games Titanic size hole was having too few players, you might think that having 4 more than required would have a more positive impact on the result, and you know what? You would be wrong, very wrong.
DEH lost 2-0 to 5 Minutes in what could only be described as a shambles. Losing heavily when you only have eight players is at least acceptable, losing when you have virtually a full squad of good players is just baffling. DEH had never lost to 5 Minutes before and after the pre-match bow, they never looked liked defeating them. Heads are still being scratched at this defeat. Yes, lady luck was again playing hard to get, but even though posts and bars were shaved, in reality we were never in the game. Too many cooks indeed spoilt the broth and some poor captaining (very out of character) helped lead us into quite a few valleys.
I think that Dan had one of his 'injuries' in this game, I could be mistaken, but Dan - aka "The Mummy" does have quite a few of them, so it is confusing trying to recall games in which he completed creak free. Dan is a modern medical miracle, his pre-match warm up consists or taping various parts of his anatomy together and praying the tape doesn't break or he will lose a leg or something. The explanation for these many ailments are due to a life of hard drinking, 24 hour partying in his early 20s when he was a member of the Tokuyama Rat Pack. Or at least that is what he would have us believe...

2nd October Hajidam: Match day 4
After 3 defeats in succession had left us without a win for 5 months our spirits were hardly lifted when the fixture list was checked for our October matches. Not only did we have a 10am kick off, which is uncivilised at the best of times, we had been scheduled to play at Hajidam out in the wilds of Hiroshima prefecture. Hajidam is one of the traditional grounds and along with Chiyoda it has probably been in use the longest.
It is situated in a beautiful part of the Hiroshima countryside and during Autumn and Spring the changing colours of the trees and shrubs is stunning. Oh, and it is in the middle of the back of beyond with a paper-less plastic hole masquerading as a toilet.
There have been quite a few highlights played out at this ground. Hajidam has witnessed a clashing of antlers between two age-defying grey bucks, a comedy clearance resulting in a corner after the ball was propelled forward only to back spin 180 degrees on landing, 2 red cards in the same game, Big Dave scoring one of the goals of the decade casting off pounds and age with a 35 yard pile driver, and in the same game dribbling around 3 defenders with floating poise and dexterity before hitting the post. Of course it was our defenders and our post, but why spoil a good story?
Back to that early October morning and for once almost everything went DEH's way. I say almost because one striker had no luck whatsoever. Yes the Blue 13 hit the bar, hit the post and had a clearance scooped of the line, it was destined not to be a personal high.
To be a goal down after 20 seconds through the first speculative shot of the match must be considered unfortunate. So it was an excellent feeling to be the team that found itself 1-0 up before our fan had had time to wake up. We quickly went 2-0 up with another well worked goal and totally dominated the 1st half. The defence was rock-solid, the midfield dominated possession and position and the strikers were constantly a threat. At half time, the players were feeling chipper and 3pts looked in the bag. Then the 2nd half started.
What seemed to be an easy confident boosting points gaining victory soon starting to look rather worrying. Soon after the break our opponents, FC サジタリウス scored and DEH started to rock like a rowing boat in a North Sea gale. Surely, surely we could not let this slip? Just when heads were starting to drop and panic buttons were being pushed the skipper came to the fore and slotted home a well taken goal to kill off the match. The game ended 3-1 and the players were confident that this was the turning point of the season. Well, that was the hope at any rate...
*Even though the team is named after an established language school in Hiroshima, non of the current squad works for or attends the school. The only link is there are currently two former teachers in the team. In reality, the team is a Hiroshima University Medical school one as the Japanese players are all studying for various medical degrees. FC ONZE, our opponents in that match, are made up of students from the Law Department at Hiroshima University. So I suppose that this is our local derby.
**This is an ongoing, unrelenting and unoriginal theme amongst footballers, i.e. the woeful lack of understanding officials have of the basic rules that govern the game. The hottest of all potatoes is the off-side rule. Contentious at all levels of the game, more so when linesmen call for off-side whilst an attacker (me) is standing in his own half. However, and I could be mistaken, but I recall on this occasion Dan and the linesman having a barney over feet placements during a throw-in. (Dan has a Neville brother like ability to propel the ball from a throw-in)

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