Friday, July 28, 2006

DEH 5 - 1 MJPC

It is not often that Japan can be mistaken for England, but on Sunday July 23rd as the Old Guard turned up at the wet, grass and foggy football pitch overlooking Hiroshima's International Airport, I was whisked back to my Comprehensive school days. More precisely to my 2nd year, when PE was first double period on Tuesdays. We would change in the freezing changing rooms only to realise that it was even worse outside. A scene of Dickensian London would greet us as the pitches were blanketed by mist and covered with frozen permafrost. Thankfully the psychotic Australian exchange teacher from my first year had been sent back to Tasmania (there loss) and Mr Glare would organise unsuccessfully our rugby /football. We used to play in blue then too.

DEH has had what can only be described as a bloody awful start to the season, played 3 lost 3. The last game we conceded 11 goals with only 9 players playing in oven like temperatures after 30 minutes sleep on a broken park bench preceded by England once again screwing up on penalties. I had approached this game with some trepidation, another spanking with a less than full side would have seen my demand for a transfer request. Bayern Munich need a striker...

Yet as we alighted the taxi our sights were lifted in exaltation, not only was it a beautiful grass pitch, but the surface was wet and slippery. Oh heaven. Our captain and my former Hirodai student Yusuke, was there even though the previous week he had sustained a nasty leg injury playing football and was plastered up as they say. We even had 2 substitutes, quickly noted by the more geriatric team members with relief.

DEH has come unstuck against lower-division opposition 2/3 tournaments I have played in. Not sure what makes us more susceptible to giant-killing than other Div B sides, but we have lost to some crap sides. I was a little nervous before kick-off as the opposition looked a) young b) quite fit & c) were kitted out in matching strips. I should not have been so worried. Indeed it was the opposition who looked at our impressively tall 'keeper (making his debut) who towered over even the stick-insects on the team.

After 1 minute DEH was 1-0 up. I won a fortuitous free kick just outside the half way circle. A long punt from the 'keeper was directed towards my head, which is actually a bit of a problem for 3 reasons:

1) I am crap at heading
2) There is no one in front of me for the flick on
3) I can not see the ball to last nanosecond.

On this occasion the referee mistook my lack of jumping as the result of the foul by the defender who ended up climbing over my back, in the not to unrealistic belief that I too would be jumping. The reason I didn't jump was that I didn't realise that the ball was hurtling in my direction.

The free kick was thwacked with speed and skill right into the top left corner. Their 'keeper had no chance. DEH has only ever lost one game in which we have taken the lead, the goal settled the team and we started to ping the ball around. Hurley playing right half (his lingo-showing his age!) was once again looking at home in his new position. The defence was controlled and the midfield had zip and movement. The strikers were winning balls and most unlike DEH, we were using the whole pitch for passes and crosses.

12 minutes after the opening goal, in the 13th minute, the number 13 scored his first goal in 13 matches. I told you it was my lucky number! After harassing from Hurley on the right the ball was passed back to the centre back patrolling just on the edge of the box. A slight mis-controlled from him allowed me to pounce. A touch with my right took the ball into the box, despite the heavy presence of same defender I slotted the ball into the roof of then net. Relief. I am striker I haven't been scoring, I haven't been doing my job for the team and it does grate. One the way back to the re-start Hurley told me that this was then end of my bad luck. It was an accurate assessment because in the 2nd half I was the recipient of some outrageous good fortune.
The glaring difference between my nostalgic lament of English schooldays was the humidity during the game was stifling and un-English like. With the comforting knowledge that I had scored at with some younger legs to come on, Hurley and I volunteered for a half-time rest. The Captain told me I could go on for the last part of the half - and that seemed like a grand idea. A lovely 25 minute rest.
The 2nd half turned out to be very like the 1st. Within a few opening minutes DEH had a free kick. A whipped and curving shot was too good for our on rushing attackers, fortunately it was also far too precise for MJPC's 'keeper who could only watch helplessly as it one bounce took the ball into the top left corner. That won the game.
A fourth goal swiftly followed, again a telling cross from the wing and Hara, our former skipper, delightfully flicked the ball into the bottom left corner. 4-0 and now I was eager to get back on and add to my goals. Hurley seemed quite content to barrack from the sidelines, so half-way through the half I came on for Hara, who had played even better than he usually does.
Our 5th goal was, there is no denying, a bit lucky. By this time Hurley had replaced a creaking Dan, who like all of the 3 Old Guard had played very well. A free kick was awarded 5 yards from the penalty box, slightly on the left. I grabbed the ball. I had never taken a free-kick for DEH before and now seemed the opportune moment. Beckham-esque, I envisioned the ball curling around the wall and bustling in the top corner. I placed the ball, measured my run up and struck the ball...well pretty badly actually. I managed to get quite a bit of side spin and around the wall, but in truth it was pathetic and as I watched it slowly bounce into the 'keeper's hands I turned despondently shouting my apologies. Then heard Dan from behind the goal. The 'keeper perhaps with too much disdain for my free-kick abilities, but more likely through incompetence, had failed to gather the ball clearly. He ended up swatting the ball into the corner of the net. My 2nd goal of the game!
There were a few more chances at either en. MJPC finally scored a consolation goal after twice hitting the woodwork in the game. After a Giggs like run from me on the left, 2 DEH players managed to contrive to fall over the ball and miss an open goal. It didn't matter. An incredibly enjoyable game, played in magnificent conditions and in an excellent spirit set up Hurley and me for the rest of the day. More can be read on this at
So Hurley was indeed right with his prediction of my/our luck turning for the better. Indeed, even the mahjong Gods seemed to have taken our side. Finally after a long run of pitiful results both Hurley and myself finished in the black on Friday. The chase to hold on to Noda's coat-tails seems to have been exposed as nothing more than a forlorn hope.

No comments: