Match Reports

Such Stuff As (bad) Dreams Are Made On: Barbarians A 2:1 Sexy FC

Published on October 7, 2016

The ball ricocheted to Lucas ‘Fall Goalscoring Edition’ Bulus in the area. Three minutes remained in the game and the Barbarians were beginning to wonder if the winning goal they had sought for almost the entire second half would ever come.

There are moments in football where you know that something magical is about to happen. This was not one of them.

‘The Barbecutionist’ followed his (understandably, given his levels of lamb consumption) immaculately-cushioned first touch by leaning back at an almost impossible angle. On the sidelines it seemed apparent —no, an absolute inevitability— that this desperate strike would follow so many of the afternoon’s attempts into the former tennis courts behind the goal, the attempt on goal a greater folly even than the make-you-squeal-with-delight plush, too-narrow, destined-to-be-forever-underused, under-3s American Football pitch those courts have become.

Resigned sighs, utterances of ‘not like this’, and frustrated grunts, in anticipation of yet another chance gone begging, emanated from the Barbarians’ bench.

There are moments in football where you know that something magical is about to happen. This was not one of them. There are also moments in football where you think that there is absolutely no chance of something magical happening, but then from nowhere comes a moment of astonishing brilliance. This was one of those.

‘King Carlos II’ unleashed a BULUSTERING strike. Perhaps the purest strike of a ball in the IFFC (or, even, to give the lad credit where it’s due: China) since Sham ‘I hit the ball hard to ensure it doesn’t grow any’ Mos’s thirty-five yard rocket to send Tobacco’s hopes up in flames the previous week.

The King’s Thunder-Bulustard screamed into the top corner, millimetres under the bar and SiDe Park fell silent for a moment, awestruck.

Joyous scenes followed. Wild scenes. Scenes of unbridled ecstasy. Viewed objectively, perhaps the celebrations were a little excessive. But then, football isn’t supposed to be viewed objectively, so sucks to that.

In fact so involved were the Barbarians in celebrating the fact that the Copacabana Kid had almost certainly just extended their winning streak to three games, that barely a soul noticed Bulus wheel away, sprint the full length of the pitch and scale the cage screaming ‘Finally they’ll believe me when I say that I wasn’t a goalkeeper in Brazil! Three goals in three games! I said three in three my friends*!’.

Prior to this point, the game had been more tempestuous than top-level.

Tempers flared on the pitch throughout, with players on either side questioning each others’  parentage, creatively comparing each other to various parts of the human anatomy, and even on a number of occasions alleging that their opponents were purveyors of incest. This was a spicy encounter to say the least.

On a slightly (but not much) lighter note, tensions also flared on the bench in the game’s early stages as two (alleged) Barbarians whose names may not be mentioned here due to a superinjunction allegedly discussed a mystery woman on the sidelines.

Angsty as the game was, a Barbarians victory should not have looked in doubt at any point. A blistering twenty-five minute opening spell saw the Barbars spurn upwards of four excellent chances to spank Sexy into oblivion.

With debutant Atticus De’Prospero’ working his magic down the left and Dias demolishing his opposing fullback it looked as though it was going to be an easy afternoon for the Warriors in White. Alas, as ever, this was not to be.

An injury to ‘The Beast’ Khalid who had been killing it at left back, and a booking for Ethan ‘Voice of Reason’ Collins, understandably riled by the opposition’s unsportsmanlike (even by IFFC standards) attempts to rile him and the referee’s interesting interpretation of the rules, were the only blemishes on an otherwise decent first half for the Barbarians. Except for the eleven or so missed chances.

Sexy FC may or may not have hit the post at some point after some sort of lucky rebound off somebody’s backside following a long ball and a melee, but it was the Barbars who took a deserved though disappointing 1-0 lead into half time through a controversial** penalty clinically converted by Nick ‘Cantona’ Beswick.

The second half was a hard-fought affair with Sexy’s combative approach, as well as tireless running by their centre forwards, nullifying the Barbarians’ attacking threat and helping to create uncertainty in the Barbarians’ defensive third.

It was this uncertainty which led to a defensive mix-up and a penalty awarded against the Barbarians midway through the half.

Ethan ‘Superhands’ Collins came desperately close to saving the penalty, getting both hands to it as he flung himself squirrelesque to his right, but it was so powerfully struck that it crept in just under the bar after cannoning off the keeper. 1-1 and all to play for.

A frantic 20 minutes or so followed in the lead up to Bulus’ goal. Whilst Murchik, fresh back from another international business trip, twisted the blood of all those on Sexy’s left-hand side (eventually leading to a decidedly unsexy red card for their left back), the Barbarians continually overcommitted in search of the go-ahead goal. In response to every chance laid waste or loss of possession, a long ball would soar towards the Barbarian goal and a frantic chase would ensue.

Miraculously, the back five of Collins, Skupien, and the excellent Beavis Blackburn, were equal to the task each time and somehow managed to extinguish the threat before beginning the cycle again.

To those on the sidelines, such an end to end spectacle with so little discernible regard for technique or tactics must have been like watching round fifteen of a Rocky Balboa fight.

Chance followed chance followed chance followed chance punctuated only by howls of frustration from the sidelines and, on the occasion that Sham fell over the ball, howls of derision and delight.
 
Such desperate stuff from both sides served ultimately only to add context and further enhance the potential for Bulus’ bullet to enter footballing folklore. And that it will. Or at least should do.

Well, maybe it will enter Barbarians folklore. It probably could. If they manage to retain the league title. That’d be nice, although quite what it would do to a certain iconic Barbarian who may or may not have cancelled his wife’s birthday to play in this game and who may or may not have partied himself to within an inch of his life after the club’s first league title remains to be seen. Let’s find out.

Final score: Barbarians 2:1 Sexy FC.

Next up for the Barbarians: top flight new boys Cavalier and the chance to put some Barbarians old boys in their place. Saturday 22nd October 2pm @ LiDo. Let’s F-wording Smash ‘Em.


*it is highly likely that the words here are, in fact, misreported and that the goalscorer-turned-madman ended his outburst with a less-than-savoury epithet, also beginning with the letters M and F.

**controversial only in that it meant that Barbarians would go into the break ahead- a complete and unsanctioned break with tradition.


Man of the Match: Lucas Bulus Phenomenal winner, creativity in celebration

Honourable Mentions: Chris, Khalid- being beasts, Sham- managing not to win the Donkey, Atticus- Splendid debut, Nick Beswick- not sulking too much about the fact that he slipped to #3 in the ‘Most likeable Nick B in the Barbarians’ rankings, The Right Honourable Sir Keith Bradbury- 1000th game for the club, Richard Payne- Services to photography/devotion to the Barbarians.

Donkey of the Week: Ethan ‘Schumacher’ Collins Hurling abuse at the referee for awarding him a free kick, Taekwondo-style back-spinning roundhouse kick to concede the penalty.

Shampagne Moment: Surprisingly not Sham falling over the ball when dribbling. This week's Shampagne moment goes to the Barbarians as a collective for their innovative use of screen captures to highlight various incidents from the game inadvertently preserved by Richard Payne's attempts at capturing the better side of Barbarians football. eg. Keith Bradbury's now famous 'close eyes and cower' manoeuvre. Ah, those kids and their social media.

The Numbers Game
1- Barbarians who cancelled their wife’s birthday to play in this game
1- Fs in IFFC that stand for Friendship
97864- Expletives uttered/spoken/screamed/howled in this game. IFFC Record.
3- Goals in the past 3 games for Lucas ‘Yangrou chuanr only-I’m trying my best to cut down on the BBQ’ Bulus
2- Goals from the spot in 2 games for Nick Beswick. Cool as a cucumber.
15- Barbarians who took time out from ‘watching their stories’ to come out and play. Top Effort.

Gideon Watch
3-  He’s back, baby. The cunning Taxi Driver disguise is really helping things along.

 

 

 

Fahrenheit 1292: Barbarians A 3:1 Beijing Tobacco

Published on October 7, 2016

And now for something completely slightly different. Our more mathematically-minded readers will enjoy this annotated journey through the key numbers behind Barbarians' rout of Beijing Tobacco.


0 number of times Ethan’s shirt has been washed this season. Let’s hope it stays that way.
0 clean sheets thus far for the Barbarians.

1 goal each for Bulus (a technically brilliant left-footed volley from the penalty spot to open the scoring), Beswick (ensuring that nobody will try to wrest the ball from him next time the Barbarians are awarded a penalty, unless Max is playing), and Sham (more on this when we reach the number 35).
1 near mass-brawl at the end of the game, par for the course when these two meet. It must be said, though, that this one was nothing like the brawl from Beavis Blackburn’s debut game back in the Hayward-Schmeeckle glory days. Mostly because it didn’t actually descend into a brawl. Anything to bring that game up though…
2 spectators flew in all the way from America to watch this game, and what a treat it must have been for them.
2 wins in 2 for the Barbarians. A scorching start
3 number of Barbarians who turned up without shinpads. Again.
6 number of times the word ‘Super’ appears in the lyrics of future chart topping song ‘Super Gid’
9 different reasons given by Carlos that Rob Skupien wouldn’t be playing. in the end, thankfully, Skupien did play and was magnificent.
18 Tobacco’s most handsome player was missing. Their football was also far less handsome as a result.
19 brutal assaults barely disguised as tackles in the last ten minutes as one side, on realising that they weren’t going to win, decided that they weren’t going to play nice any more.

35 yard strike out of nowhere from Sham to put the Barbarians 3-0 up on 65 minutes and precipitate the state of cruise control which eventually led to Tobacco’s consolation goal. Sham’s goal was a thing of beauty, an utterly majestic hit which soared almost poetically into the top corner as the sonic boom and subsequent minor earthquakes generated by the contact between the Turkmen Thunderbolt’s right foot and the ball reverberated around the greater East Asia area. The sound is alleged to have been so loud as to cause panic in Pyongyang, with reports suggesting that the Dear Leader (no, not Chairman Broady) headed for a nuclear bunker, only to emerge Sunday morning when the shockwaves had subsided.

39 GIDEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON
47 small villages (population >500 000) in Hebei reduced to rubble by the shockwaves from Sham’s shit-hot strike.
57 distance in metres that Richard had to stand from the lineup in order to focus his team photo at the beginning of the game, on account of the supermassive military-grade zoom lens on his camera.
86 minutes of the game elapsed when Tobacco scored their consolation goal, a product of Barbarians ceding possession cheaply, two sloppy defensive mistakes, and a thunderous finish
127 number of times that future chart-topper ‘Super, super Gid’ was sung at the Irish Volunteer in honour of the song’s eponymous hero and his crucial role in this Barbarians victory
136 approximate combined age of Barbarians’ starting back four for this game (This is not a joke)
1292 temperature in Fahrenheit (Freedom Degrees) at which a lit cigarette burns

Man of the Match: Sonic Boom Sham
Donkey of the Week: Marwan Who else?! (it definitely wasn’t officially awarded to Tobacco)
Shampagne Moment: Richard finally taking a team photo that was in focus, meaning that the game could actually begin.

 

Return of the Kings: Barbarians A 4-1 FC Kozo Japan

Published on September 12, 2016

One hundred and four indulgent, booze-soaked, drug-fueled, hedonistic, decadent days after the Barbarians’ last competitive appearance, Keith ‘I am the Resurrection’ Bradbury prized his shin pads from his legs last Friday and gave them a good wash. He’d convinced the footballing world that he’d left the game forever after Barbarians’ title win through his assertions that he’d played his last game and the beating his shin pads had taken over the course of his personal crusade to celebrate himself into an early grave.

But Bradbury finally realised late that Friday night that if he continued to lie to himself and everyone else in this way, the world and Mrs Bradbury would be confronted by something far more tragic than the thought of a footballing world bereft of his mercurial talent: Fat Keith.

And then he was risen, and it was good. At least for now. And it was in good time too, which was nice.

One hundred and five indulgent, booze-soaked, drug-fueled, hedonistic, decadent and,without football,  purposeless and soul-destroying days after their last competitive appearance, the Barbarians sashayed back into the fray Saturday with a comfortable victory over an undercooked Japanese XI. 

Barbarians’ fiercest rivals Time and Punctuality did their best to sabotage the pre-match preparations, meaning that debutants Henri ‘Thierry’ Heikura and Carl ‘CC’ Christian started the game for the Barbarians alongside nine familiar, albeit more haggard-looking than before, Barbarians.

Both debutants put in assured performances, much to the chagrin of Colum ‘I was CC until that upstart stepped on me toes- and you can quote me on that but don’t ask about it ever again or you’ll wash up on a beach somewhere in little pieces’ Curtis. The reasons for Curtis’s displeasure are, as yet, unclear. Club secretary Mark Blackburn said that the club will release a statement later in the week.

Barbarians started the match brightly, moving the ball well and fashioning a number of decent chances that on another day (in a parallel universe where the Barbarians were clinical in front of goal) they might have taken. By contrast the Kozo team struggled to fashion any meaningful opportunities to threaten Collins’ goal, seeming content to gently pass the ball to one another for a while before sacrificing possession with a long diagonal punt whenever they found themselves in possession.

Around the thirty minute mark, a sublime through ball (not from Nick ‘Pork pies make you better at football’ Beswick, and in fact not even a sublime through ball but a delightful reverse pass from Lucas ‘Summer BBQ Edition’ Bulus) found C ’It stands for Class and Composure’ C through on goal, and he slotted home to give the Barbars a deserved 1-0 lead. 

As usual, the lead didn’t last for long. Remembering how successful their tactic of ensuring that they were always behind or level at the interval proved last season, the Barbarians contrived to concede right on the stroke of half time. 

As the rest of his teammates contrived to allow a corner to drop and pinball around the area before reaching the Japanese number nine at the left hand corner of the six yard box. At this moment Super ‘Gideon Mwsegwa’ Gideon, sporting his new and not at all ironic ‘Taxi Driver’ haircut (he’s just a huge De Niro fan) left the post he had been guarding, and strode in the direction of Fangyuan Xi Lu. God knows what he could have been hoping to find there.

Gideon gone, the goal was smashed in at the near post. 1-1 at half time.

And with that, Sham arrived as if from nowhere. Or Shanghai. Chabuduo. And with Sham, it was certain that the Japanese would be vanquished.

And they were. Quick as a flash.

Well, in less time than it took to shave the lightning flash into Steppe style icon Sham’s hair.

The thirty five seconds and nine kicks of the ball which followed half time must surely rank among the most exhilarating and incisive in the history of the Barbarians, although Bradbury would surely argue that most or all of the 9,072,000 seconds between the Barbarians’ last two matches were equally, if not more, exhilarating.

With his usual brother in destruction Murchik ‘Business Time’ Munchkin away on ‘business’, Colum Curtis was forced to combine with his other brother from another mother to restore the Barbarians’ lead. 

Receiving the ball directly from the restart, Curtis had enough time to scan the entire field for (in his eyes) the best haircut. Failing to find any flowing locks that matched his high, well-conditioned, standards he resigned himself to targeting Sham. With the Japanese defence summarily drained of energy by their three hour pre-match warm up, and pushed to breaking point by being forced to help their manager solve Sudoku puzzles posed on the magnet board at half time, Curtis had enough time on the ball to communicate his vision for the next passage of play to his intended recipient.

“Sham, go on lad”

“Really? But it’s warm. I think i will just tell you I don’t understand what you want.”

“Don’t be like that Sham. I thought we were friends.”

“We are, it’s just that I want to save my energy so I can dribble eleven players in one go later on and humiliate the entire team.”

“Oh, I know that feeling. But we could do that without too much effort here if I just give the ball a wee dink over the top and you jog past that guy who runs the hundred metres twenty seconds slower than you.”

“I am not too sure, Column”

“It’s Colum, not Column. Anyway, that’s not too important right now. Come on Sham, I’m probably never going to want to pass the ball ever again. Plus I want to see if I still can- I’m fed up of scoring goals, did I mention I’ve had ten in me last two? I want to give you a chance to at least feel like you can catch up to me.”

“Ah. Mmm. Now I’m kind of sad that you would say that, and I’m contemplating quitting the game.”

“Aw man. But what about this double that we said we were going to win for the Barbarians? They can’t do it without us.”

“Meh. You should probably consider your words before you throw them around like that you nasty little [racial epithet redacted].”

“[Gasp] I am shocked and appalled that you would deign to call a fellow member of the human race something so…so…cruel. And I was just about to tell you that I liked the way you’ve reworked that hair of yours Sham.”

“You were? Oh my goodness, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. I’m so sorry- how can I make it up to you?”

“Run. Now!”

“Okay.”

And with bridges rebuilt the ball arced over the Japanese defence, Sham strolled onto it and dispatched it past the despairing ’keeper for 2-1 Barbarians. 

From the kickoff Kozo tried to emulate what they had just seen, but the ball went long to Collins. 

From Collins to Dawson.

From Dawson to Curtis.

Curtis turns, puts his foot on the ball. Looks up.

Over the fullback. This one’s a foot race. No, wait, it’s not; the winger’s already fifteen yards clear.

Mos, into the box. 

He’s one on one. Could this be three?

Mos winds up. He squares it across the box to…

BULUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSSSSS

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!

The boy (in the body of a forty year old) from Brazil, stroked home his first of the season and Barbarians’ third.

The game’s fourth goal effectively killed it as a contest, and so there’s no need to go into things that might or might not have happened like Dawson missing a gaping open goal from 2.3 yards or Marwan ‘It’s called style guys, you guys just aren’t young enough or cool enough to understand. And next week I’m going to turn up with only black socks and the wrong shirt just to piss Ali off Aleid doing anything good.

Something that did happen, though, ten minutes from time, was the less hairy of the CCs chasing a well-weighted through ball, outmuscling both opposing centrebacks, and rounding the keeper to cap an outstanding debut with his second goal. A debut made all the more noteworthy by the fact that his warm up (a full game of Rugby in the morning and a game for Vikings in the cup immediately beforehand) was more rigorous than Kozo’s.

CC’s second and a host of missed chances aside, the second half consisted of Kozo playing to their strengths: passing the ball in straight lines across the pitch in a hypnotic attempt to lull their opponents into a deep slumber before attacking.

The only man really in danger of falling asleep though was Keith ‘Ronaldinho’ Bradbury, a testament to just how focused the other Barbarians were on beginning the season with a resounding victory. And testament to the ruinous effects of Bradbury’s decadent preseason.

With the final whistle the weight of Bradbury’s eyelids lessened slightly as he found himself once again on the victorious side, and only seventeen more games away from another set of shinpad-shaped tan lines. 

Barbarians 万岁!

Next up for Barbarians A, a historical a grudge match (but then again, they all seem to be). Will they or won’t they smoke Beijing Tobacco to continue this supreme start to the season? Watch this space. Or go and watch the game. Or do something else.



Man of the Match: Super Gideon Mwsegwa (We didn’t really think he played awesome, we just wanted to be able to sing his song thousands of times in the pub.)

Honourable mentions: Bradbury (Services to partying), CC (The new one- fabulous debut), Henri (For being the only person present who could pronounce his name properly. And for a solidly impressive debut), Sham (having such a big impact on a game in which he played a grand total of twelve minutes).

Donkey of the Week: Marwan ‘Paul’ Aleid (More reasons than you could shake a beard comb at)

The Numbers Game

Will return next week. 

Gideon Watch

0 - yet to recapture his late-season good form

 

The History Boys: Barbarians A 13:0 French L'Equipe

Published on June 3, 2016

Saturday 21st of May 2016

Sometimes in football a result doesn't tell the whole story, but Barbarians' seventeenth match of the season unfolded exactly as the scoreline suggests.

Asterix, Brigitte Bardot, Andre the Giant, Greg Desbuquois, Monet, Charles De Gaulle, Napoleon Bonaparte, William Shakespeare, Fabien Barthez, August Rodin, Just Fontaine, Marquis de Sade: your boys took one hell of a beating.

With the kind of performance that would traumatise the Videprinter, the Barbarians made history in securing the silverware that had eluded them over their thirteen seasons of existence. In scoring thirteen without reply, thanks in part to Colum Curtis's Dary Stone-esque five goal haul, the Barbarians also broke the IFFC Premiere League* record for the largest margin of victory. Unbeknownst to the Barbars at the time, spectacular and unforeseeable results elsewhere over the weekend would also ensure that the bleach boys ended the season with the league's best attacking and defensive records, as well as the best goal difference.

Even though Ethan Collins wasn't wearing the shirt it was apparent almost from the off that this was going to be a game that the record crowd of fourteen or so Barbarians fans packing the area between the edge of the field and the cage, including the two self-hating suspendees Dawson and Muniz, were going to enjoy. Barely a beer had been cracked on the sideline when Curtis began the destruction with a sweet left-footed volley, stoning it in** from just outside the box.

Two more followed in quick succession courtesy of Curtis, apparently desperate to do enough to win the game as quickly as possible and in the process earn himself an early substitution to maximise drinking time. The second of these, his third, was a truly succulent free kick which with Pythagorean precision worthy of Dan Schmeeckle found the corner of the French goal. 3-0.

After the third, events took a turn for the Carnivalesque. The Great Helmsman himself, Kev Broady, who had overruled Dawson's team selection and named himself among the subs for the afternoon in order to bask in the glory of league triumph fully kitted out without being accused of John Terrying was seen on his knees, begging the manager to release him from the shackles of substitutehood so that he could toast the impending triumph. Dawson's resolve held firm until after the fifth goal, or fifth beer, and with the Benevolent Leader's first triumphant gulp his grip on power was restored, allowing him to take centre stage and continue to cultivate his cult of personality during the carefully-choreographed post-game victory celebrations.

5-0 up at the interval the Barbarians passed the quietest half time in their history, not because they were taking the time to drink in the moment and appreciate that they were on the brink of history, but because they were busy cramming Snickers bars down their throats as hungrily as they would attack the French goal after the half.

                                                       *              *               *

After the eighth goal all the action became rather hazy and took on a fairly surreal feel, as it tends to do after a certain point on a Saturday during the football season. The ninth or tenth goal remains in the memory for the way Richard Curtis claimed his fifth goal, humiliating the keeper with yet another piece of ridiculous videogame skill. The final goal was also noteworthy as Sham's thirty-eighth attempt of the game dribbled into the goal for his first of the day, after the sub-standard-stand-in striker had proclaimed before the game "I will be a monster today. They will not be able to touch me. I will destroy them" and, during the second half, waved off numerous attempts to substitute him.

A short while after Sham's moment of glory, it was time for the Chairman's moment of glory; the final whistle blew and the Barbarians were champions.

And Keith Bradbury is still wearing his shinpads.

 

Man of the Match: Colum 'Richard' Curtis (scoring goals)

Honourable Mentions: Everybody who played for the As this season. Top stuff.

Donkey: No Barbarians are donkeys, they are all stallions

Shampagne Moment: Colum Curtis ludicrous jumpstandrockgentlybacktofrontheel one on one goal. A piece of skill so insane the manager sank to his knees with tears in his eyes, weeping at the beauty of what he'd just seen. It's probably time to rename this award.

Leader of the Week: Kevin Broady

Leader of the Decade: Kevin Broady

*Yes, we know this is not how it should be spelled, Nick.

**TM. Nasir, 2013.

The Numbers Game:

0 Number of nicknames possessed by Eddie Martinez.

1 Fairytale story.

1 Barbarian in a black shirt on the team photo taken after the game.

1 Barbarian in Kev Broady's crosshairs. Absolutely in no way related to the above sartorial indiscretion. honest.

1 Barbarian player's name emblazoned on the back of the referee's shirt (Sham's, of course)

2 Mark Blackburn has two legs. He broke one of them once but didn't bother to get it fixed. Tough guy!

8 Consecutive days Keith remained in full kit after the win.

9 Margin by which the Barbarians won the league, in points.

10 Consecutive weeks in which Beswick hasn't found the time to buy boots. Weak.

11 Bradbury's all time record for days continuously wearing shinpads.

13 Goal margin of victory. IFFC Premiere Division record.

13 Goals. Club record (tied with the B's 13-1 demolition of DP, 2014)

14 Fans in attendance. Club record.

22 Number of league titles the Barbarians have won, according to the Official History of the Beijing Barbarians (author: Kev Broady)

45 Barbarians' final points total. Another club record.

46 Barbarians' final goal difference. Their previous record was +2.

78 Snickers consumed in the ten minutes prior to kickoff by the playing squad to the soundtrack of Ethan losing his mind at the unprofessional preparation

83 Snickers bars consumed at half time.

 

Kicking and Screaming: Barbarians A 2:0 FC Kozo Japan

Published on May 18, 2016

Saturday 14th of May 2016

This weekend it rained in Beijing. It was raining drama, raining thrills, raining cards, and raining rain. Although at times it threatened to turn to a shower of excrement the Barbarians took another enormous step towards some reigning of their own.

Opting to play an altogether simpler brand of football than is considered conventional, the Barbarians played the majority of the second half of the game with only nine men on the field (whether this was the result of refereeing ineptitude, an embarrassing lack of composure, or both, nobody will ever know. Except those who saw the game).

With the rain driving down, and just as Murchik was probably missing the crucial penalty in some Mickey Mouse game of embassy football somewhere else (much to Dias' delight), the Barbarians started unusually brightly (briefly). Muniz was played through on goal down the left-hand channel in the very first minute only to slice his shot wide or skew his square ball too far in front of Curtis for him to reach; the ball missing both potential targets by so far that to discern Muniz's intentions from its path was impossible.

Rather unsportingly, Kozo then decided to make a game of the game by waking up and beginning to use their classic 'disguise our long balls by playing them at a thirty degree angle and make everybody think that we play stylish football' tactic to great effect, targeting the Barbarians right. The Barbarians caused Bradbury some consternation by moving Khalid into the back line to stem the steady flow of traffic towards Collins' goal; "the problem is that he's going to try and play football now" rang the warning Bradbury offered the management, but luckily this proved not to be as big a problem as it had initially seemed for the remainder of the game. Which was a relief.

With the score still delicately poised at 0-0, crucial contributions were made by the Barbarians' two resident brobarians. Blackburn came into his own at the back; clearly relishing the conditions he took it upon himself to play the uncompromising style of defence that has made him a cult hero among the fans, and crushing everything that came his way in putting in one of the standout performances of the season. Similarly, Ethan Collins continued to showcase his love of intensity through the way he watched everything, hawk-like, and pulled off a couple of extremely tricky saves in what could have proved to be the most unforgiving of conditions (except for, perhaps, a blazing inferno or a nuclear winter).

At the other end, a dubious offside call (although, this being the IFFC, the phrase is somewhat tautological) put paid to Muniz's hopes of atoning for his earlier miss, following a sublime overhead-pirouette-wraparound-razzamatazz dink over the top from Curtis.

As half time approached, the breakthrough finally came. As Sham surged into the Kozo penalty area he was brought down, the referee pointing to the spot

Thank you, Nick Beswick. 1-0.

Collins once again saved Barbarian bacon immediately after the restart as he tipped away a beautifully precise long-distance bullet from the Japanese number 6, ensuring that the Barbarians' lead was intact as the ref blew for half time.

After a half time team talk once again blighted by babble and differences of opinion, Sam 'the Prophet' Bensley entered the fray and immediately started to exert his influence on the game, elegantly spraying balls to all corners, and a number of times releasing Curtis and KP 'to Feet' Mothapo down the flanks with razor-sharp precision.

It was one of these delectable passes (whether from Bensley or another Barbarian has since been lost to the sands of excessive drinking or the sands of time; not that it should matter anyway, it's a team game and Nick Beswick usually ends up with most of the credit anyway) that ended up falling to Mothapo midway inside the opponents' half. Sashaying past a couple of defenders and into the penalty area, Mothapo decided that it was all too easy and started trying to tackle himself. Apparently he's too good to even tackle himself and, instead, the young South African missed the ball completely and managed to boot his own ankle. As he plummeted towards the turf, a Kozo player buffeted the barbarian in his own attempts to win the ball and a penalty was awarded.

Babyish buffoonery from the Kozo goalkeeper (threatening a Collins-style walk off*) and a cacophonous noise (his own goalkeeper, bizarrely, offering him some bilingual heckling) failed to put off old iron-nose, and he duly converted the chance in exactly the same manner as the first; a veritable action replay.

Thank you, Nick Beswick. 2-0.

Beswick once again was the focal point of the next action of note as, somehow outpacing the defence and well-placed at twelve yards out and just to the right of the goal, he latched on to a pass from Curtis before letting the pressure get to him and scuffing his shot at a hat-trick, and immortality, the wrong side of the post. Suspicions among the players after the game were that he had, as with his 70 yard ball to noone out of play in the previous game, deliberately erred to boost the confidence and self-belief of his teammates.

There followed a period of fairly frenetic football where neither team really seemed to hold the upper hand (other than in terms of the scoreline), before the match took a turn for the dramatic, a turn for the dishonourable, and very nearly a turn for the disastrous.

Seeking to pay homage to his predecessor and idol Big Stu 'the Gaffer' Hayward, Dawson couldn't think of any better way to honour his former boss than doing his best to emulate Hayward's actions in his final game against the Japanese by getting sent off for attempted murder. A chest-high, studs up, two-footed lunge resembling a move from Street Fighter 2 (tame by IFFC standards), and a five minute conference with half of the Kozo team (having initially reached for the yellow) was all it took for the referee to give Dawson his marching orders.

The Barbarians readjusted by slotting Sham the miracle man into right back in an attempt to neutralise the Japanese onslaught, and they managed to do this whilst in the process creating a few decent chances (all of them squandered, of course).

After one such chance was created, Muniz was seemingly brought down in the box. A third penalty for the Barbarians? Surely not?

No. Absolutely not.

Carlos Muniz is as strong as an extremely strong ox. So strong in fact that his stare, after said foul, knocked a Kozo player 5 yards away to the ground. The result? A straight red to go nicely with the yellow he acquired earlier in the game for tackling (apparently it's against the rules to do that if you're playing in white).

With nine men on the pitch, the Barbarians knuckled down and saw out the remaining 20 minutes in an unprecendentedly calm and collected fashion.

Colum Curtis chose the moments immediately following the second sending off to reveal his true identity. From his locker he brought out something more impressive than any of the tricks, flicks, trickflicks, flicktricks, or trickflickflicktricks that we've seen to date: he brought out his defensive responsibility. As the crowd realised what was happening, a deferential hush momentarily fell upon them, in reverence for Colum and his bravery, a sense that something had been lost but also a sense that something greater had been gained. A true Barbarian had emerged from the shadows.

Of course this silent awe was shattered all too soon, probably by a C-bomb screamed by one among the rambunctious Barbarian horde on the sidelines (which although poetic in its own right served to stain a moment of unequivocally pure beauty).

With Curtis all commitment responsibility and slide tackles galore the rest of the team dug in, adapting to their (ridiculous) 4-4-0 shape, in all honesty fairly comfortably seeing out the win to nil.

Next up for the Barbarians: Saturday 4pm @ SiDe Park vs French L'Equipe. Let's Smash 'Em and let's win the league.

*Collins-style walk off: storming off the field when unhappy with a decision. Not, contrary to popular belief, flouncing around with arms-a-flailing as if listening a little too enthusiastically to Beyoncé; that's a Collins-style warm up. It's easy to confuse the two.

Man of the Match: Colum Curtis (Defending!)

Honourable Mentions: Mark 'Buzzwick' Blackburn (truly unbelievable, inspirational, crunchy performance), Sam Bensley (bossing it after he came on, Nick 'Action Replay' Beswick (goals, composure, humility in spurning a hattrick chance, referee-chat-related hypocrisy), Ethan 'Brobarian' Collins (MARTINEZZING UP, and some majestic goalkeeping)

Donkey of the Week: Alastair (reasons undisclosed)

Shampagne Moment(s): (1) Kozo player appealing for a free kick after one Barbarian (Carlos) savagely cut down another Barbarian (Sham! Why would he do that to Sham?!)with a brutal Blackburnesque tackle in the middle of the park.
(2) Colum Curtis ridiculous air kick cheat move late in the second half. Unbelievable; so good in fact that everybody thought Nick Beswick had the ball.

The Numbers Game

0 clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet
0 pairs of boots purchased by Nick Beswick since he left his last pair at the field.
1 points required from the Barbarians from their final two fixtures to secure the title
1 days this year when it has been acceptable to support Forbidden City. That day has now passed. Thank you, Forbidden City.
2 Nick Beswick penalty taking masterclasses in one day. A treat.
5 weeks since the giant fist has made an appearance
9 weeks since Nick lost his boots
14 number of crunching tackles by Blackburn
31 Gideon watch. The rain makes him angry.
751 pounds per square inch. The force of a Muniz stare.
950 unbelievably everybody paid and the Barbarians collected the exact amount of the match fee. For a change.

 

 

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